COVID-19 Consumer Rights FAQs
March 12, 2020
UPDATED: 18 March 2020
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation is continually changing and you may have questions about your rights as a consumer. Our Q&A covers the most frequently asked questions from consumers on travel, insurance and shopping online. Check back to the CCPC as we will update this section as and when we learn more about the impact on consumers of COVID-19.
Can I cancel my package holiday if the area I’m travelling to is affected by COVID-19?
It’s important to initially explain that a package holiday is defined as a pre-arranged holiday or trip that is sold at an inclusive price, which must last more than 24 hours or include an overnight stay. It must also include at least two of the following:
- A tourist service or activity – for instance, golf or hill-walking.
Package holiday legislation allows you to cancel in the event of extraordinary circumstances occurring at your destination and you are entitled to a full refund. Covid-19 is a new development and a significant health risk. Therefore, if it is the advice of the Irish Government and in particular Department of Foreign Affairs not to travel to affected areas, it would appear to be unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. The current advice of the Irish Government is against all non-essential travel up to 29th March due to COVID-19. This means that you should be able to cancel and get a refund without a penalty for package holidays that start before 29th March.
I want to cancel my package holiday but the travel agent I booked with will not give me a refund?
Travel Pre 29 March
If your package holiday is due to start before 29th March and the travel agent will not provide a refund here are the steps you can take:
- Refer them to the Department of Foreign Affairs website and a link to this page on the CCPC website which outlines their obligations under the Package Travel Regulations.
- You can seek advice from ECC Ireland for complaints about traders based outside of Ireland in the EU/EEA. In some cases, ECC Ireland may liaise on your behalf to seek an amicable solution with the trader via the centre based in the country of the trader.
- Or you can pursue the matter through the Small Claims Court (for traders based in Ireland and claims up to €2,000) or the European Small Claims procedure (for traders based elsewhere in the EU/EEA and claims up to €5,000), or through arbitration.
Travel due to commence after 29 March
The Irish Government’s travel advisory is currently up to 29th March. This may be extended in which case if you are to commence a package holiday within the new timeframe you can follow the steps above.
However, if you wish to cancel a holiday that is outside of the Irish Government’s travel advisory information you are not guaranteed a refund. In these circumstances you should check the terms and conditions of your contract on the information about cancellations. You should also contact the business you booked the holiday with and ask them if they can accommodate you. And if needed you can also check with your travel insurance provider if your policy has cancellation cover.
If I book a flight directly with an airline and it is subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19, am I entitled to a refund?
If you have planned a trip where you booked the various elements individually, such as flights or a hotel, you do not have the same level of protection as with a package holiday.
If your flight is cancelled, regardless of when you are told about the cancellation, your airline must offer you the choice between:
- Re-routing as close as possible to the original departure time
- Re-routing at a later date, or
- A refund of the cost of the unused flight ticket.
If you want to change your flight to a later date you can do so by using the link provided by the airline and remember that the availability of flights could be limited.
If you want a refund you do not need to urgently contact the airline. Airlines are required to refund passengers within 7 days of the flight cancellation. If you do not receive a refund within this timescale you should submit a complaint to the airline. If you do not receive a satisfactory response to your complaint after 6 weeks you can escalate it to the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
You may also be entitled to compensation depending on when you found out that the flight was cancelled. Get more information on www.flightrights.ie
I am having difficulty getting a refund from airline as a result of my flight being cancelled what can I do?
Flightrights.ie provides more information about the steps that you can take, in general they say to raise the matter with your air carrier first and foremost. If your air carrier does not resolve the complaint then you should forward it for the attention of the appropriate enforcement body. The appropriate enforcement body is the one based in the EU Member State (or Iceland, Norway or Switzerland) from where the disrupted flight was due to depart. This means for example, if you booked a return flight from Dublin to Malaga and the outbound flight (i.e. the Dublin to Malaga flight) was cancelled then you should contact the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
What are my rights if I choose not to fly because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation?
If you decide not to fly because you are concerned about COVID-19 you may lose the money you paid if the flight has not been cancelled by the airline or if you have not booked them as part of a package holiday. Where you booked the flight yourself you have no entitlement to re-routing or a refund. It could still be worthwhile contacting your airline as some airlines are offering other options such as a voucher. Find out more about your rights as an air passenger at www.flightrights.ie. You should also contact your travel insurance provider to see if you can claim on your policy.
Can I claim on my travel insurance if the Government is advising against travel to my holiday destination because of COVID-19?
If you were planning to travel to an area where the Irish Government is advising against non-essential travel you may be able to make a claim on your travel insurance. However, this will depend on the terms and conditions of your policy and when you bought it.
Will travel insurance cover the cost of my holiday if I choose not to fly due to COVID-19?
If you decide to cancel your trip to a country which the Irish Government has not advised against travelling to, it is unlikely that you will get a refund. But you should check your policy or get in touch with your travel insurance provider to find out.
It’s important to know that if you take out travel insurance after the Irish Government has advised against travelling to your destination, it is very unlikely that your travel insurance provider will consider any claim you make. If the Irish Government has advised against travel to your destination and you choose to go anyway, your travel insurance may become void. That could mean that any claim you subsequently make may be denied. If you can prove that your travel was essential, this may not be the case. However, it is not clear what is considered ‘essential’ travel, so make sure to check with your travel insurance provider before you go.
Will my health insurance cover me if I become sick due to COVID-19 when I am abroad?
If you have to travel to an area affected by COVID-19 you should contact your health insurance provider and inform them. Make sure that you know what your insurer will cover as this will depend on the type of policy you have with them.
If you are travelling within the EU you should also get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If you are an Irish resident and have this card, you are entitled to free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare when visiting a EU country or Switzerland. You can get more information on the EHIC website.
Online Shopping and Deliveries
What happens if my online deliveries are delayed due to COVID-19?
COVID-19 could impact on the ability of businesses in affected areas to produce goods or to meet agreed delivery timescales. This could mean that you may experience delays or even non-delivery. Your rights in relation to buying online will depend on whether you bought the item from an EU, or a non-EU country.
If you bought from a website within the EU, you have strong rights. The delivery times depend on what you agreed when you bought the item and if the delivery time was not agreed the item should be delivered within 30 days.
If the item is not delivered within the agreed timeframe you have the following options:
- You can agree a new delivery date that suits you where this is appropriate in your circumstances
- Where it is not appropriate to agree a new delivery date in your circumstances or where the trader has refused to deliver the goods, you can cancel the contract and get a full refund.
You do not have the same level of protection if you buy from a website based in a country outside the EU and you will need to check the terms and conditions of the website you made the purchase from.
Find out more about your rights when you buy online.
Is there any other way to get a refund for non-delivery of goods?
If you can’t get a refund for non-delivery of goods from a business and you have paid by credit or debit card you could try the chargeback option. You should contact your credit or debit card provider – usually your bank – who may agree to reverse the transaction. More information can be found about chargeback here.
Other sources of Information on COVID-19
The quick links provided below provide more detailed information on the areas covered in our Q&A.
|Consumer Information – Quick Links|
|For general information on COVID-19||Gov.ie|
|For advice on travel restrictions||DFA.ie|
|Information on your rights when you buy a package holiday||CCPC.ie|
|For information on your flight rights and entitlements||Flightrights.ie|
|For travel insurance information||Contact relevant travel insurer for T&Cs|
|For private health insurance information||Contact your health insurance provider to check what your policy will cover|
|For European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) information||HSE.ie|
|For more information about your rights when you buy online||ccpc.ie|
|Advice on consumer rights when shopping with traders based in the EU/EEA||ECC Ireland|
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