Your questions answered

July 29, 2020

Every month we receive thousands of questions from consumers about their rights when things go wrong. Here are some of the most common queries we received during the last month.

Q: Last January I booked a family holiday to Italy for the last two weeks of July. Rather than going through a travel agent, I booked both the flights and hotel directly. The price of the hotel booking includes free cancellation, as long as I give the hotel one week’s notice. I have tried to contact the hotel on numerous occasions by phone and email to cancel our stay, however, I have yet to receive a response. I used my credit card to make the booking, and I am worried that I may be charged if I can’t get in touch with the hotel within the seven days’ notice period. If I don’t hear back from the hotel, are there any steps I can take to prevent the hotel from charging me?

 A: The unprecedented circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 crisis has meant that, for many businesses, the volume of cancellations and refunds sought by consumers has increased significantly. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the potential for delays, it is equally important to know that your rights as a consumer still stand.

The first thing to remember to do is to keep a record of the calls and emails you have sent to-date, as these are proof that you tried to cancel within the one week notice period. If you continue not to hear back from the hotel, consider writing a formal letter of complaint to the hotel directly or to head office, if they are part of a larger organisation or hotel group.

If the hotel does not respond prior to the payment being charged to your credit card, contact your bank or card provider immediately to request a reversal of the transaction. This is called a chargeback. A chargeback works by the bank withdrawing funds that were previously deposited into the recipient’s (usually a retailer) bank account and putting them back into your account.

You will need to provide them with the details of the disputed transaction that may include evidence of your booking, cancellation and the charge that was placed. Depending on the debit or credit card scheme – for example, if it’s a Visa or MasterCard – different terms and conditions may apply. Most schemes offer full chargeback rights but there can be specific timeframes for requesting a chargeback, such as 120 or 180 days after the transaction takes place or the agreed date of delivery.

You can find more information about chargebacks here.

 

Q: When the COVID-19 crisis first started to unfold, I decided to book a staycation for the last two weeks of June, rather than our usual family holiday to Spain. I booked a holiday home and was required to pay the full amount in early April. The total cost amounted to nearly €2,000. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the holiday home site recently announced that it will be closed until further notice. Rather than a refund I have been offered a credit note, which I have to use within a year. The holiday home company is treating COVID-19 as a ‘force majeure’ event and has insisted that credit notes apply in these circumstances. Do I have to accept a credit note or am I entitled to a cash refund?

 A: In circumstances such as this, an important first step will be to look at your contract with the holiday home provider. When you placed your booking you entered into a contract with the business. Consumer contracts fall under contract law, and will have terms and conditions that outline the rights and responsibilities which both the consumer and the business must comply with.

Read the contract carefully, and check for any terms or conditions which refer to circumstances in which you would not be able to use or access the facilities, or details of what circumstances you are entitled to a refund. If there are specific contract terms that are relevant, they should be highlighted to you.

Based on the terms and conditions of your booking, if you are entitled to a refund, your holiday home provider may offer you a refund credit note of an equivalent value. Whether or not you are entitled to a cash refund in lieu of a refund credit note will, again, depend on the terms and conditions of your contract with the provider.

If the holiday home provider refuses to provide you with a cash refund or no resolution can be reached, you can then make a formal written complaint to the business. Following this, if the issue is not resolved, you may choose to take legal action. If the claim is for less than €2,000, you can use the Small Claims procedure.

 

 Q: I purchased a pair of tickets last year for myself and my husband to see one of our favourite comedians perform live in July. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the event has been rescheduled to a new date later this year that doesn’t suit us. Are we entitled to a refund?

A: You can always request a refund, however, if an event is cancelled or rescheduled, what you are entitled to is based on what is contained in the terms and conditions on the tickets, or on the website from which they were bought. There usually will be specific terms and conditions around re-scheduling or cancellations or both. This may include the process in which you will be communicated with and your options in the event of a cancelled or rescheduled event. Check any communication received from the ticket seller regarding your options, and make sure that they are aligned with the relevant terms and conditions.

If you are entitled to a refund, check the ticket seller’s website for procedures for handling refunds – for example, see whether:

  • Your refund request has to be received within a certain number of days
  • You have to return the tickets to the point of purchase in a particular way
  • Ticket holders themselves are responsible for finding out about the new date and time if the event is being rescheduled

It’s important to note that if at the time the booking was made the contract said that you have the right to a refund, businesses are not permitted to change the terms at a later time without your agreement.

If you think the ticket seller is not acting within the terms and conditions of the contract, we would advise you contact them to try and come to a resolution. If you’re unhappy with their response, you should then submit a written complaint.

For more information and the latest updates, visit the CCPC’s dedicated COVID-19 Information Hub.

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