Cancellations and COVID-19: Can I Get a Refund?
Many events, flights and plans have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out here if you're entitled to a refund.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to numerous cancellations across almost every industry. This includes music festivals, sporting matches and tours, as well as the majority of interstate and overseas flights. Beyond this, recent restrictions on non-essential services have meant the closure of gyms and fitness studios. At this time businesses are undoubtedly under pressure to stay afloat, but consumers continue to have the same rights to refunds and exchanges they’ve always had. Here we’ll explain what your legal rights are when it comes to claiming a refund for cancellations due to COVID-19.
Concerts and sporting events
In most cases, you should be able to receive a refund for event cancellations. However, specific terms depend on your ticket provider. Your confirmation of purchase should outline what circumstances allow you to receive a refund and you should check this before contacting the event organiser. However, your legal entitlements depend on when cancellation occurred. If your event was cancelled prior to bans of outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people or indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, you can be refunded. If your event has been cancelled due to recent Government restrictions, the event organiser may be able to claim the event cancellation is no fault of their own. You’ll also be able to receive a refund for a postponed event if you cannot attend the new date.
Gyms were able to remain open until only a couple of days ago. New restrictions may mean that even though you cannot go to the gym, you’re still paying for it. However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides that payments cannot be debited from you if there is no service being provided. For most gym memberships, you will likely be able to freeze your membership until the gym reopens. If you’ve signed a longer-term contract, you should be able to receive a refund or voucher for the closure period. An example is if you paid $600 for a 6-month gym membership. If you were 2 months into your contract, you should either receive a payment for 4 months of your remaining membership or a voucher for 4 months’ free access. It is illegal under consumer law for a business to take payments for goods or services when there are reasonable grounds to believe they won’t be provided.
Prior to current travel restrictions, many flights were cancelled. This was mainly due to reduced customer demand. If this was the case, you have the legal right to a refund. If your airline is refusing to provide a refund, they should provide an alternative remedy. This can include a credit or travel voucher for use in the future. However, you should read the terms of your ticket to see if any exceptions apply. Further, if you’ve booked your flight through a third-party, the airline will not be able to process your refund. If your flight was cancelled after travel bans came into place, the airline may refuse to give you a refund. If you have booked a flight but wish to cancel it, you’ll likely receive a travel credit rather than a full refund.
If you have booked accommodation and cancelled your travel plans, you will first need to check with your accommodation provider to find out if you can receive a refund. Many accommodation providers will offer you a voucher for future use. However, this will depend on your accomodation provider’s cancellation policy. If you’ve booked accommodation through Airbnb, you can receive a refund if you cancel with at least 14 days’ notice. If you’ve cancelled your travel plans in the wake of Government restrictions, you may not be entitled to a full refund.
Travel insurance purchased since the COVID-19 pandemic became a “known event” will not cover medical or cancellation expenses. If you purchased your policy before 31 January 2020, your policy may cover you for accommodation and pre-booked activities. However, it’s important to bear in mind that some policies have provisions which don’t cover for pandemics. Alternatively, some policies will cover you only for medical expenses.
Generally, you can receive a refund for anything you purchased prior to Government restrictions coming into effect. For membership fees you are paying to a business that is no longer running (such as a gym), you are entitled to a refund. If you have further questions regarding refunds for event cancellations, it may be worth contacting the ACCC or a consumer lawyer.
Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is a solicitor in NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.