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If you injure yourself on holidays the fine print might take away your claim

Walking along a jetty, swimming at a beach or in a pool, snow and surf skiing, boating, dolphin and whale watching, and going on theme park rides are all enjoyable holiday activities.

No one gives a thought about suffering a serious injury, but injuries happen every day. And when they do, apart from the pain and suffering there are hospital, medical and physio expenses, there is time off work and the cost of carers and helpers.

Who pays for these? Or more to the point, can you recover these expenses and costs from the owner of the place, such as the Council, or the operator of the activity?

The first answer lies in the Civil Liability Laws. The second answer lies in the fine print that the Laws allow the owner or operator to exclude liability.

The image at the top is the new sign Coffs Harbour Council has placed at the entry to its famous jetty which contains many warnings.

The sign was put up after the Council lost a NSW Court of Appeal case where it was ordered to pay more than $500,000 because its previous sign was not clear enough. That explains the legalese in the wording!

But in most cases, the sign or warning is clear enough and the Council or operator is not liable.

For my case summary on the Coffs Harbour Jetty case click


Do warning signs take away rights?

Do you look at the warning signs at a beach, park or boat jetty and wonder if the signs actually protect against personal injury claims?

The answer could be yes! See case study#1 boat ramps


 


 

If you are looking a refund for an airfare, watch out for the cancellation fee

Nobody reads a travel agent's terms and conditions ... until they cancel a flight and ask for a refund.

Travellers quickly discover that lurking in the fine print are cancellation fees. Not one but two sets of cancellation fees - the first, the airline's cancellation fees, the second the travel agent's cancellation fees. What fees do they charge?

The Airlines: Qantas and Emirates charge a $375 per fare if the passenger cancels. If the airline cancels a flight and cannot offer suitable alternative arrangements, then it does not charge a cancellation fee if the cancellation is within its control.

The Travel Agents: Flight Centre and Helloworld have exactly the same cancellation fee policy: Cancellations to International bookings (excluding Trans-Tasman bookings) will incur a fee of $300 per passenger per booking in addition to supplier fees (and credit card fees). The fee is charged regardless of whether it is the passenger or the supplier (i.e. the airline) who cancels.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has introduced a new factor. That is, travel bans and border closures have resulted in flight cancellations outside of the control of both the passenger and the airline.

As a result of Government and consumer pressure, most airlines have dropped (waived) their cancellation fee. In the US, the Department of Transport has ordered airlines not to charge a cancellation fee for flights cancelled because of travel bans and border closures. In Australia, Qantas, Emirates and other airlines have done the same.

But what about the travel agents? Flight Centre insisted upon charging its cancellation fee of $300 until 2 May 2020, when overwhelming pressure from the public and the Australian Consumer watchdog, the ACCC, resulted in Flight Centre waiving its cancellation fee for flights cancelled because of travel bans and border closures. Flight Centre will now provide full refunds of airfares.

For more information click on my article ACCC pressures Flight Centre to waive cancellation fees on some fare refunds.


For COVID-19 travel refunds, the ACCC sits on the fence

The ACCC - the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission - is the Australian Consumer Law watchdog.

The ACCC provides the latest information on consumer rights, travel and event cancellations in relation to COVID-19 on its website with a special Q&A section: My flight, tour or cruise has been cancelled. Am I entitled to a refund?

Allowing for the fact that it is impossible to lay down general rules for an industry as diverse as the travel industry - from flights, cruises, day trips, tours, resorts, hotels and sports packages - the rules the ACCC lays down are vague and contradictory. For example:

  • If your travel is cancelled the ACCC expects that you will receive a refund or other remedy, such as a credit note or voucher, in most circumstances.
     
  • If your travel is cancelled due to government restrictions, this impacts your rights under the consumer guarantees. However, you may also have other remedies outside of the Australian Consumer Law.

Allow me to answer the question Am I entitled to a refund? in this way:

  1. If travel is cancelled because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the consumer's right to a refund does not apply because the cancellation is not the fault of the travel supplier.
     
  2. The ACCC will allow a travel supplier to issue credit note or voucher as an alternative to a refund for COVID-19 cancellation, provided that the expiration date is far enough in the future for it to be used.
     
  3. If the consumer insists upon a refund, and the travel supplier is willing to give a refund, then it is entitled to charge a cancellation fee and/or retain the travel deposit (in accordance with their terms and conditions).

For more details on refunds for COVID-19 travel cancellations, click on my article My flight, tour or cruise has been cancelled because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Am I entitled to a refund?


Do airline cancellation fees and charge fees annoy you? Help is on its way.

If you want to cancel your flight, for whatever reason, you pay a cancellation fee. Is a fee of 60% of the fare a fair fee if the cancellation is more than one month before the flight?

If you want to change to another flight, or want change your booking, you pay a change fee. Is a fee of $80 fair if you want to change to another flight which had spare seats?

If the airline cancels your flight, can you ask for cancellation compensation despite the prominent 'no refunds' notice? Is paid overnight accommodation and meals enough compensation if the cancellation was the airline's fault?

The good news is that the consumer law watchdog (the ACCC) is about to change the way airlines charge you excessive cancellation and change fees if you want to change your mind about a flight.

The ACCC also wants airlines to change their 'no refunds' notices, and to give more compensation to passengers where the airline has cancelled the flight due to the airline's fault.

The ACCC has outlined its position in a Report - Airlines: Terms and Conditions - and will be engaging with airlines operating in Australia to change their terms and conditions. It may even bring some test cases to the courts on behalf of passengers.

For more information on the report, and to see 6 examples out of 1,400 complaints the ACCC has received in the past 2 years, click - Memo to Airlines: It's time to review refund policies, cancellation and change fees to comply with the Australian Consumer Law


If a travel agent books an international flight, are they legally liable if they fail to advise the visa requirements for the flight destination?

There are some travel professionals who still think that they can book an international flight, and leave it to the customer to look after the visa requirements. They do this even though as travel professionals, they know that without a valid visa the customer will be denied boarding on the flight they have booked.

For more details See Full Article


Australian domestic airlines agree to an ‘opt in’ model for extra charges

Australian airlines will now use ‘opt in’ choices in their online bookings, where passengers need to agree to extra charges being added. Instead of ‘opt out’ choices , where the extra charge is added unless the charge is removed by the passenger. See Full Article


DOES Airbnb GIVE BOUTIQUE HOTELS AND B&Bs A COMPETITIVE EDGE?

Traditional hotel chains and large resorts have long dominated the accommodation industry because of their strong brand marketing and distribution channels.

But as with so many other industries, the internet is disrupting the traveller accommodation industry. Through internet booking platform operators such as Airbnb, Stayz, eDreams and Bookings.com, the internet is providing small accommodation providers with easy and cheap access to a global market for travellers, whether it is for business or pleasure.

There are four services which Airbnb provides, which give Boutique Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts a competitive edge over traditional hotels and resorts, and which allows them to by-pass the traditional travel agents (brick & mortar or online) in making bookings:

  • Marketing
  • Bookings Management
  • Payments Platform
  • Property Damage & Injuries cover

These services are increasing lodging occupancy and pricing power for small accommodation providers.

For more information about how Airbnb is empowering Boutique Hotels and B&Bs to build their business, See Full Article


IS LUNCH INCLUDED IN MY ALL INCLUSIVE TOUR PRICE?

The words All-inclusive are a powerful marketing tool which is used by many tour operators, accommodation providers and cruise lines.

So what does a traveller think when they read this in a brochure which is labelled All-Inclusive : WHAT'S INCLUDED? Coach travel throughout ... Six nights dinner, bed and continental breakfast at the Hotel ...

Is lunch included?

According to a ruling by the UK Advertising Standards Authority, the traveller was entitled to expect that lunch was included because that was the overall impression given by the description.

The lesson is that to avoid giving a misleading impression, if lunch is not included then it needs to be specifically stated - Lunch is not included. If nothing is mentioned about lunch then it is misleading to not include lunch.

For more details See Full Article


ARE YOU A TARGET FOR CONSUMER CLAIMS?

Strategies for travel agents, tour operators, airlines and cruise ship operators to protect against consumer claims

See Full Article


WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Everyone who travels knows a little about Travel Insurance - especially the benefits.
Many travellers know the small print is there, and hope for the best.
The reality hits when they make a claim – if only they had kept receipts, if only they had checked the motorcycle exclusion, if they only spent enough to qualify for credit card travel insurance, and so forth. Then there is the claims procedure, and what to do if the travel insurer refuses the claim.

See Travel Insurance – An Overview



TRAVEL LAW AND THE HAZARDS OF AIR TRAVEL:

See Full Article




E-TRAVEL BLACKBOARD ARTICLE SERIES (Click on Bullet Point):

 

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