Read on for a quick rundown on your rights during COVID-19 related cancellations
While we have all been living with COVID for more than a year now, every day seems to present a new challenge as we try and retain some sense of normalcy. Some of the most valued aspects of this normalcy include non-essentials like social events, personal appointments and the holidays we all desperately want and deserve. While some of these things have been able to go forward, Australia’s continuous lockdown periods have meant that many have unfortunately been cancelled. This has left businesses scrabbling to reduce loss, and consumers with many questions about whether or not they are entitled to a refund, a credit, or nothing at all.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has provided the following tips for consumers:
- Remain patient. Understand that processing mass requests takes time, especially if you are dealing with a small business.
- When contacting a business for a refund, it is best to email rather than call. This gives the business the opportunity to attend to your request when they can (and also provides a written trail of your correspondence with the business should you need to prove anything down the track).
- Most travel companies, airlines and similar businesses will provide a terms and conditions which stipulates whether cancellation due to COVID-19 (or another unavoidable circumstance) will entitle you to a refund or otherwise; note that this is often known as ‘frustration’ or a force majeure clause;
- Failure of a business to act in accordance with their stated terms and conditions (as at the time of booking) may constitute misleading and deceptive conduct under Australian Consumer Law (ACL);
- Be aware that according to ACL, businesses are not obliged to provide a refund for a cancelled event or booking you cannot attend due to COVID-19 – whether or not there are government restrictions in place – as COVID-19 is no longer perceived to be an unprecedented event. They may instead offer a re-booking, credit or similar.
- Again, we recommend you approach the provider of accommodation about a refund, or whatever alternative they are prepared to offer you.
- It is a good idea to purchase travel insurance – you may be able to utilize this to get a refund in the event the provider is unwilling.
- You may seek legal advice to enquire about your remedies under common law, contract (which may include oral contracts) or legislation, however note that this can be costly and may not be worth the costs associated with legal fees.
Services – I.E. Gym Membership
- Regardless of a subscription or contract, a business cannot charge you for goods or services they cannot deliver. As such, during a government mandated lockdown where gyms are not permitted to run, you should not be charged your membership fee for the period you are unable to access the service.
The ACCC provides more information and examples on consumer protection here: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers
As does the Office of Fair Trading Queensland: https://www.qld.gov.au/law/fair-trading
The most important thing to remember is to always review the individual terms and conditions of your contract before you enter an agreement!