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What happens if your business flights or events are axed due to COVID-19?

How your consumer rights and guarantees may be impacted

Has your business booked a flight for you that has now been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis? Australia’s consumer watchdog has put together a list of your rights and obligations

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on 18 March issued advice for businesses and individuals regarding their rights and obligations if events, flights or travel services are cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, or if people and businesses choose to cancel their bookings due to the ongoing outbreak.

Broadly, if events, flights or other travel services are cancelled, the ACCC said it expects refunds or other remedies such as a credit note or voucher to be offered in most circumstances.

If, however, the event, flight or travel service is cancelled due to government restrictions, consumer rights under the consumer guarantees may be impacted. In such situations, consumers and businesses may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of their ticket, or potentially may make a claim under a travel insurance policy.

Additionally, if a business or consumer chooses not to attend an event that is still going ahead or not to travel domestically due to coronavirus concerns, this may be treated as a “change of mind”. 

“The same applies to hotel room bookings. Consumers’ rights to refunds in these circumstances will depend on the terms and conditions and any cancellation policy adopted by the business,” the ACCC said in a statement.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said, “given the exceptional circumstances, the ACCC encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly and compassionately”.

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

“Consumers in all situations should contact businesses directly to request a refund or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher.

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