The European Justice Commissioner has repeated guidance to member states to find “flexible solutions” to demands for refunds on cancelled holidays during the Covid-19 crisis, saying consumers “should consider accepting a voucher”.
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders called for “the right balance between consumer protection and support to travel and tourism businesses”.
Reynders wrote to member states at the end of March advising governments alleviate the pressure on tour organisers and travel agents by allowing the issue of credit notes or vouchers in place of cash refunds.
He made clear the EC would support the issue of vouchers so long as consumers’ rights to a refund under package travel rules are upheld and insolvency protection remains in place.
The commissioner also urged governments to provide support.
Reynders repeated the call “for respect of consumer protection and support to travel and tourism businesses” on April 9.
He urged: “Member states, travel organisers and all involved actors to find pragmatic and flexible solutions that respect travellers’ rights for cancelled package travel holidays in the current situation.”
The commissioner noted: “[A] traveller’s right to be reimbursed in accordance with the EU Package Travel Directive applies in case of ‘unavoidable and extraordinary’ circumstances such as those caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Nevertheless, in light of the unprecedented situation . . . when possible, consumers should consider accepting a voucher that allows them to postpone their holidays to a later point in time.
“Such vouchers should be reimbursable if not used and secured against possible insolvency of the operator.
“Member states should also consider providing liquidity support, in accordance with state aid rules.”
In a statement, the EC said the Commissioner Reynders would be “liaising with business and consumer associations to ensure appropriate actions are taken at national level that strike the right balance between consumer protection and support to travel and tourism businesses”.
The EC approved a Danish state loan facility in support of Denmark’s ‘Travel Guarantee Fund’ on April 3 to provide liquidity to travel organisers, allowing them to settle refund claims.