26 September 2023

Travel complaints weigh down watchdog

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Consumer Protection has announced it has received 1,200 complaints and 1,340 enquiries from people with travel-related issues since the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting Western Australia in March last year.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe said that when the cancellation of travel services occur due to Government restrictions, consumers might not be automatically entitled to a refund, as they would under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

“Before booking travel, it’s important to carefully consider what the terms and conditions say about cancellations or postponement, and think about what your options might be if border restrictions remain or are reimposed,” Mr Newcombe said.

“For this reason, cheaper options for travel bookings may not be the best choice under current circumstances as they may be quite restrictive on what, if any, remedies are offered if there is a need to change your plans.”

He said Consumer Protection’s advice was to look for the most flexible booking arrangements with the best refund options.

“If you have booked travel to a jurisdiction where there is a sudden lockdown, don’t immediately cancel your travel arrangements,” Mr Newcombe said.

“Firstly, speak to your travel or accommodation provider to see what they are planning to do,” he said.

“Cancelling in advance of a decision by your travel provider might be treated as a ‘change of mind’ by you and your cancellation options may be significantly reduced.”

He said booking future travel could be risky due to the continuing and evolving nature of the pandemic.

“A safer option currently is intra-state travel. However, we would advise booking within WA close to the date of travel, and continue to be wary of ‘pay now/book later’ deals that may impact your ability to get a refund,” the Commissioner said.

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