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COVID-19 Affected Travel Could Mean Refunds, Says ACCC

The ACCC has advised that consumers may be entitled to refunds on flights, events and other travel services impacted by COVID-19.

Level 4 travel advice was issued for the entire world this morning, with PM Scott Morrison telling Australians not to leave the country under any circumstances; additionally, indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people have been banned if “non-essential”.

According to Rod Sims (pictured), chair of the ACCC, the consumer watchdog expects refunds or other remedies such as vouchers or credit notes to be issued in most circumstances in the case of cancellations; however, if cancellations occur due to government restrictions, rights under Australian consumer guarantees may be impacted, which would entitle consumers to refunds or claims on travel insurance.

“We welcome the decisions by many businesses who are already offering refunds to all ticketholders, and expect other event and travel businesses to also offer remedies to all affected consumers when events or travel services are cancelled,” said Mr Sims.

Customers with coronavirus concerns who choose not to travel domestically, stay in a booked hotel room, or go to events that are still proceeding may be treated as a “change of mind”. Mr Sims advised consumers in all cases to contact businesses directly to request refunds or vouchers.

“Failure by any business to honour its cancellations or refunds policy may constitute misleading conduct under the Australian Consumer Law.

“We also remind consumers that many small and medium business are trying to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak as best they can. We urge consumers to exercise patience and treat service staff with courtesy and respect as they fulfil consumer requests for refunds and remedies,” he said.

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