Need to know
- Nearly one in two Australians have had to cancel travel plans since the onset of the pandemic
- In 2021, we reported that fewer than one in five of the grounded travellers we surveyed got a full refund
- In our submission to the NSW government, we're calling for mandatory information standards that allow travellers to know the terms of the deal when they book
It's been a tough couple of years for would-be travellers, many of whom have discovered that businesses seem to make up their own rules when travel plans get cancelled.
Since March 2020, almost half (47%) of Australians have had to cancel travel plans due to COVID-19 risks, border closures or lockdowns.
Since March 2020, almost half (47%) of Australians have had to cancel travel plans due to COVID-19 risks, border closures or lockdowns
In July last year, we reported that fewer than one in five of the 4060 people we surveyed got a full refund after their trips were scuttled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Since then we've heard from many others who've also been left empty-handed and uncertain about their rights.
Ts and Cs leave customers guessing
The terms and conditions that have enabled travel providers to keep people's money were often self-serving and complicated, leaving customers both confused and out of pocket.
In lieu of refunds, many have received travel credits that came with their own restrictions, including expiry dates that were set too soon.
As a follow-up to our investigations, we made a number of recommendations to governments to improve customer experiences in the travel industry.
One of them, a mandatory information standard, is now under consideration in NSW.
In a recent submission to the inquiry, we argue that travel customers should know the terms of the deal when they book and not be caught unawares by tricky conditions.
"The NSW government has proposed an Australian-first information standard to make travel bookings clearer and fairer for consumers," says CHOICE director of campaigns Erin Turner. "We hope NSW is the first of many states to introduce this much needed reform."
What CHOICE is calling for
The mandatory information standard we're pushing for calls for a number of improvements. One of them is that all travel providers (including cruise-ship operators, car-hire companies, tour operators and online booking platforms of all kinds) should provide the following at the time of booking:
- Clear disclosure of how much money will be returned to customers in the event of a cancellation, and an itemised list of any money that will be kept by the travel provider
- A clear explanation of how customers can seek refunds and other remedies, how long they will take, and how they can lodge a complaint if they're not satisfied
- Clear disclosure by travel intermediaries such as travel agents and online booking sites about the remedies available to customers in the event of travel cancellations and any fees that they may retain
- A standard disclosure form used by all travel providers that has simple and consistent language.
We're also calling for reforms that will make it easier to get refunds, make travel credits and vouchers fairer, and raise the standards of customer service in the travel and tourism industry.
"Making travel providers disclose key terms at the time of booking will give Australians more confidence to book travel in uncertain times," says Turner. "We need to know what will happen if a booking has to be cancelled and any fees that will apply.
Too many people have lost money from bad practices and unclear terms in the last two yearsErin Turner, CHOICE director of campaigns
"Too many people have lost money from bad practices and unclear terms in the last two years – this NSW travel information standard is an excellent start to addressing this issue."
We'll soon be reporting on the experiences of customers who've received travel credits or vouchers.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.