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Having difficulty getting a refund from a tour operator.

My husband and I and three other friends were planning on being in Normandy in early May. The Five of us booked a private tour of Normandy with a French operating company ( I am not including the name at present) through our travel agent in Palm Beach. The operating company arranged for airport pick up, tour guides, and hotel. The coronavirus pandemic has changed all of this.. We each paid by credit cards. We were told that we are being charged the 30% penalty plus any non-refundable outlay they have made, e.g. the train tickets for the Chunnel and hotel. The total charges were $15,632.50. Our travel agent has now told us that the cancelation refund is only $8,879.00. The trip started at the Paris airport on 5/11, was to go to Normandy and then back to the train station in Paris on 5/15.
I understand that if we decided to cancel the trip, that there would be a penalty. But the Coronavirus occurred and the rest is history.
We want to have a full refund. Has anyone else run into a situation like this and have it resolved?
Thank you.

Posted by
5017 posts

I understand that if we decided to cancel the trip, that there would be a penalty....
We want to have a full refund.

This isn't what you want to hear, but...unfortunately, it's not about what you want. It's about what are you legally entitled to.
That's specified in the terms of your booking. What exactly does that say?

the Coronavirus occurred and the rest is history

The rest may be history, but it does not change the terms of the purchase that you agreed to.

You are entitle to whatever refund is specified in your purchase agreement, no more and no less. You can always ask if they'll refund you more, but ask nicely (since they don't have to say yes and you are asking them to give you money that you do not have any legal basis to expect), and don't be shocked if they say no, and insist on sticking to the specific terms of your agreement.

Posted by
49 posts

First of all, good luck! You must be sad about not being able to take the trip; add to that the frustration of not knowing whether you'll get much of a refund.

I'd suggest not canceling until the French government announces the rules for May: who will and won't be allowed into the country, for what reasons people will and won't be allowed to leave their places of residence, and which kinds of businesses will and won't be allowed to open. If your travel providers are closed and can't provide the services they promised, that is a very good reason for them to refund your money (or at least to let you postpone to a later date).

You mentioned that you paid by credit card. Assuming that you are in the United States, the "special rule for credit card purchases" might help, if all else fails. Look it up!

Two lessons for other readers: pay by credit card, and buy travel insurance with the "cancel for any reason" option. (Travel insurers have stopped offering this option for new policies, but let's hope it reappears in a year or two.)

Posted by
2893 posts

$7000 loss split between 5 people is $1400 each. It is very hard to face the loss of this money on top of the loss of your much anticipated trip. However, I think this magnitude of loss is fairly typical for many people who are cancelling trips. I have read stories on this forum of higher losses than this.

I am sorry for your loss on several levels.

Posted by
2499 posts

You used a travel agent and it should be the agent’s responsibility for constant follow-up on this. The agent should demand proof of non-refundable fees. Were the Chunnel tickets paid for? Did the hotel refuse a refund? People use travel agents for worry free travels and they have a responsibility to their clients to solve problems on services sold by them. I would demand more help from the agency.

Posted by
6672 posts

Aren’t Eurostar tickets refundable? Aren’t a lot of the trains being canceled? You can look on line yourself to see if your train is even scheduled to run. If it’s canceled, the tickets should be refundable.
Edit: RS staff has answered that below.

You can do the same for the hotel: look on line to see if it is closed. You could even call to see if the nights are refundable. Did the tour company or your travel agent investigate if the hotel is refundable?

I doubt any of these services will be up and running in early May. The employees are on unemployment for now.

Perhaps the company is about to go under.

Yes, some of this has happened to some others, while other businesses have graciously refunded or given credit for the same service a year later. Your case is particularly difficult. I’m sorry your travel agent isn’t investigating further. You need to know what the French government has decreed during the confinement, what your contract says, and what your credit card company says, to help determine the outcome.

Posted by
16741 posts

Eurostar tickets are only refundable in the form of a voucher and that is usually traveler-specific, probably not transferrable to another traveler even when bought by a tour company.

Also, who actually cancelled the trip? At this point, it sounds like your decision to be “proactive” rather than their decision or any government prohibition.

Posted by
153 posts

Read your agreement. Did you cancel or did the operating company? If you did, then you will only receive whatever amount back that was agreed to in the contract. If the operating company cancelled then you should receive 100% back. Doesn't matter if you can't enter the country, the business is still open. "But the Coronavirus occurred and the rest is history." Let's say it didn't occurred but you broke your leg and couldn't go would you still expect a full refund?

When you purchased your trip you didn't know what might happen. Neither did the business. But you also don't know what might happen between now and mid-May either, same as the business wouldn't. They are hoping that things will be better and you can visit. You are guessing that things will be the same and now decided not to go. Things could change between now and mid-May. Most businesses are waiting until the last minute to cancel hoping that they won't have to do full refunds. What don't people understand about cancellations? Seems like a lot of people are cancelling months before travel is to take place and expect / demand full refunds on non-refundable parts and when they can't get them they post to forums crying about it. If the business is still open at the time you are to use their service then they are meeting their part of the agreement. Just because you can't get to them isn't their problem. Fair? maybe not, but that's how it works.

Grow up people. You took a chance and lost. Yes, for most people losing money isn't good but it isn't good for a business either. If you are traveling more than a week out, wait and see if the business cancels. If they do then you will receive a full refund. Also read your contract and see what is the latest date you can cancel without penalty.

Read and understand the contract before you sign!!

Posted by
188 posts

I see people blithely saying you don't get full refunds because of coronavirus.

Speaking as an attorney who practices in the area of contract and insurance law, I don't think that is so clear. Unless the contract has a pretty specific "hell or high water" clause, it strikes me there is a pretty reasonable argument that you do get a refund.

The following link lays out some of the issues: https://reason.com/2020/03/16/is-coronavirus-an-excuse-for-non-performance-of-a-commercial-contract/

Now, in this case, since the contract is with a French tour company, French law may apply. I don't have the faintest clue what French law may provide.

Posted by
589 posts

I'm having difficulty comprehending a 15K spend for a tour of Normandy regardless of train tickets and pick up and hotels for 4 days with 5 people.

Posted by
153 posts

Matt: As a lawyer you should fully read all the post. What most people are trying to do is cancel weeks to months before their trip starts. And when they are told no they come here to cry. Unless they can see into the future no one knows what will be going on then. From what I have been reading and hearing most businesses are refunding all monies paid when they close. That might be a few days before the customer arrives. It's a wait and see game.

If you cancel today for a trip planned for July then why should you receive any refunds? If things change and you are able to travel in July are you going to expect that hotel to still have your room after you had cancel? Or if they have rooms do you feel that you should get the same deal? Sure you could get a lawyer. But then you take a chance of losing the case and you are out more money. Or you could win but after paying all the legal costs you might break even or worst, owe money. Is it worth it, only you would know.

My point is that you wait and see what happens closer to your travel date if you want a better chance of a refund.

Posted by
2753 posts

Did you cancel or did the operating company?

Reading the OP's post, it's pretty clear that the tour company cancelled.

Posted by
6 posts

This is for Matt - Our trip is the beginning of May not july. Not sure where you got that from.

Posted by
153 posts

Robert - Doesn't look clear to me who canceled. Are you assuming "We were told that we are being charged the 30% penalty plus any non-refundable outlay they have made, e.g. the train tickets for the Chunnel and hotel." was that the operating company cancelled? They could have been told that when emogil43 cancelled. If, as I have said before, the tour operator cancelled then yes they should receive a full refund. If they cancelled then no they don't get a full refund.

emogil - Matt didn't say that. I did as I was just trying to make a point about people cancelling well in advance of their trip.

Posted by
2546 posts

emogli,

The answer to you question is here, assuming you canceled after March 1, 2020:
"Toute annulation faite entre le 1er mars et le 15 septembre 2020, quel qu’en soit l’auteur, sera traitée de la même façon.

Le professionnel concerné doit :

vous proposer un remboursement immédiat de l’intégralité du prix payé pour la prestation annulée ;

ou, dans les 30 jours de l’annulation vous remettre par email ou par courrier papier un bon d’achat valable 18 mois à partir de son émission, correspondant au montant payé initialement. Vous pourrez utiliser ce bon en tout ou partie pour acheter une ou plusieurs prestations proposées par la même agence. Le solde du bon d’achat vous sera remboursé à la fin de sa durée de validité, en principe sans démarche de votre part.

et, dans les trois mois de l’annulation, vous faire une nouvelle proposition pour une prestation identique ou équivalente à la première sans supplément de prix dont la date est fixée d’un commun accord. Cette nouvelle offre reste valable 18 mois et vous pouvez la refuser."
Assuming you canceled after March 1st, you need to let these people know that they are in violation of a directive. You should read the details of the directive set out above but you may get a voucher that is good for up to 18 months followed by a refund at the end of the period instead of a full immediate refund. Many businesses are doing the 18 month voucher to avoid the cash bleed right now. That is what I would do if I owned an impacted business.