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Travel agent cancelled trip due to COVID, refuses to refund. Should I go to the small claims court?

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 1,506 ✭✭✭ podge3


    I made payments totalling €459 on behalf of my son to a travel agent who organises summer camp travel and work placements in the USA. I'm not really sure if the company is classed as a travel agent but you pay their fee and they arrange travel & employment in summer camps in the US. They are a well recognised company with good online reviews.

    The payments were made in respect of employment for the summer of 2021 but obviously it was cancelled due to COVID. They have refused to issue a refund as their terms and conditions state that no refunds will be given. They have offered to defer the trip to Summer 2022 but my son has a preplanned job placement as part of his University College course next year so will be unable to avail of this. The company has further offered to defer to Summer 2023 but my son is not interested as it is 2 years away.

    I tried a charge back with my credit card company but that was also refused as "as you are bound by the Merchants terms and conditions and therefore the transactions are not covered under the Chargeback scheme". So the company have not fulfilled their side of the contract but I cannot get my money back??

    Is there any point in me going to the small claims court? I know there was an EU ruling in favour of refunds for holidays & flights but I'm not sure if this applies in my case.

    Thanks for any advice.



Comments



    1. They cancelled, not you.
    2. They haven't performed their part of the contract.
    3. What happens if next year / the year after is cancelled?
    4. "No refunds" is a policy, not an enforceable contract term.




  • Thanks for the feedback, that's how I see it also. I don't know why Mastercard choose to see it differently.

    I think I'll give the SCC a try, it's only €25.





  • I tried to lodge a claim with the Small Claims Court but the SCC wouldn't accept it as "Covid is considered an Act of God which was beyond their control. They did not choose to not offer the service and they have offered an alternative date for the service in line with regulations".


    Needless to say I am surprised. The company may have offered an alternative but the earliest it can be availed of is in 2 years time.


    I thought there was some kind of EU ruling about cash refunds for COVID travel cancellations?





  • I spotted this very issue with my own daughter. I sat down with her and went through the terms and conditions. I pointed out to her that it said along the lines of "we send you money to the US company, if cancelled, we will ATTEMPT to get it back" In other words, tough luck. Accordingly we spotted it early. I do not think you have any sort of reclaim available here.





  • "In other words, tough luck" - I would disagree.



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  • Or in other words, it is just so important to read terms and conditions especially when you know there's a chance things won't be able to proceed.


    I doubt that this was booked prior to March 2020?


    Hence the company had specific terms and conditions which the op accepted but seems not to have read.





  • Master Card and the SCC would disagree with you. Plenty of people and businesses have lost out due to COVID, this time it's the consumer who looses out.





  • My daughter wanted to go the the states and work the camps, but I sat down with her and on reading the terms and conditions, the warning signs were all there. I do tell her to always look for a second opinion and don't let the cloud of "I really want to" get in the way of common sense.

    Lucky escape I think.





  • Plaster it all over social media. That seems to be the only thing that works these days. Don't post it in a "these feckers won't refund me" way, but in a FYI type of way. First, I'd ring and look to speak to management and tell them your intention, the threat I've found is usually more than enough to get action happening. Businesses are petrified of social media. Twice it has saved me going to the small claims court and resulted in refunds/replacements each time.

    But, if it's in the T&C's then you're kinda screwed. The nice thing would be for them to refund, but niceties are out the window these days it seems.





  • If the money was sent on to the crowd in the USA, like the terms and conditions I had said, who are you going to name on social media? If the terms and conditions that were agreed to, show this is where the money went, are you suggesting trying to crucify a company that does not have the cash?



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  • Whoever I was dealing with who sent the money on. I'm not sure of the process here, but to me that sounds like terrible T&C's which should, imo, be mentioned in person before signing anything. It appears sneaky, but again I don't know the process. I was only giving an opinion, threatening social media has worked for me. It's legal discussion, not advice. But yeah, I'd crucify anyone who took my money and won't give the services as stated (ie: not in 2 years time!) or a refund. What they have agreed with another company is nothing to do with me, I deal with the initial one.

    If it's 100% the OP's own fault because of those T&C's, I'd still consider making those T&C's well know across social media anyway, no doubt they're not the first (nor the last) that was "caught out" with this. We give companies too much leeway imo. The OP paid a person/company to arrange travel, accommodation and work. What they agree with someone else is not my issue and if it was me I would be of the opinion I paid for a service (job, accomodation and travel) which they couldn't provide and now won't refund. That's wrong, and while it may be legally ok because of said T&C's, if it's not well know then social media will make it well known, which would affect the business and rightly so. No refund is not something we should ever agree to. But, my opinion only.





  • I agree with you it is poor practice, but when you agree to terms and conditions, you dont need to be told it verbally. When you sign (assuming there was a sign), you agree to the terms and conditions.

    You cannot just crucify anyone you want. That sounds like throwing a tantrum. I dont believe it "is what they agreed with another company", you agreed it, you signed to understand you were doing it. At least that is what my terms and conditions said, and on review, I told my daughter to reject it.

    Unless a more learned person in the legal profession can a professional opinion, I really think you are wrong. But they wont be able to do that unless they can see what the terms and conditions agreed to, actually say.

    If I am an agent for someone in the USA and you pay me money for forwarding onto them. You sign an agreement that you understand that in the event of postponement, I will try and get your money returned, but as it was sent to the USA, they may insist on rescheduling, then I think you are wrong in your opinion. Throwing your toys out of the pram will probably not help you - or maybe it would, who knows?





  • We come at it from different angles, but we both want the same thing. The reason I'm saying mention the T&C's is because they are definitely hiding behind that. Yes, we should all read every T&C we agree to, but if we did we woulnd't have any time to do anything else. I had to agree to 3 different T&C type thingys when playing Project Cars 3 for the first time the other night. You didn't have to read it, but you had to scroll to the bottom. It was going fast enough to blur the text, but still took about 15 seconds to scroll to the bottom. I'd still be reading that now, and that was only the first of 3.

    If they are covered by the T&C's, then don't crucify them on social media, but make an FYI type post. If it's in the T&C's then no harm in making that section a lot more obvious, because we all know that 99% of people won't read them. I also believe that T&C's should also have a shortened version highlighting the most important parts, of which no refunds would be a huge one imo. We can put tags on films and tv to warn us of what it contains, but we can't do the same with legal documents. Well, we can, but no one will.






  • While the majority don't read the full terms and conditions it's not difficult to search for cancellation, refund etc if you are about to spend a significant amount of money on something.





  • The OP hasn't suggested the company cancelled the trip, only that it got cancelled because of Covid which I'm pretty sure is down to the US not allowing travel from here. Also, the OP stated the " the earliest it can be availed of is in 2 years time" when they said in their original post "They have offered to defer the trip to Summer 2022 but my son has a preplanned job placement as part of his University College course next year".

    So I don't think they can really be held accountable based on their T&C's and they have made a reasonable offer to defer.





  • It would appear that nobody in the supply chain has lost the money since they are offering deferment.

    Since the company wrote the T & C’s they favour their position.

    This is power play not a legal play.

    T & C’s are applied when the consumer has little power but can be ignored when the consumer gets some clout via social media exposure.

    Companies spend a lot of money wanting customers to feel warm and fuzzy about their offering. It’s good for business.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with using the threat of social media exposure to highlight the T & C’s.

    It might get at least a partial refund.

    It might or might not work, Ryanair and Michael O’Leary have brought contempt for customers to a fine art and have been incredibly successful.



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