Over the last couple years, the evolving situation with the pandemic and the floods in BC have made travel difficult and many folks have cancelled their flights, cruises, or other travel arrangements (or had them cancelled by the business). Depending on your situation, we’ll tell you whether you may be owed a refund under BC law. 

Refunds for cancelled travel that was purchased online: how it works and who is eligible

Since the pandemic began, many consumers have dealt with cancelled travel and had issues getting refunds from travel suppliers. As a BC regulator, one of the laws we oversee has been helping people get refunds for cancelled travel that was purchased online. Here’s why:

  • When you buy something online or over the phone (not in person), you’re entering something called a distance sales contract – our organization regulates these contracts.
  • With these transactions, if the business fails to supply you with the goods/services you paid for within 30 days of the delivery date/supply date, you may be within your rights to cancel your contract and request a refund.
  • Simply put, with purchases made online, if the business fails to hold up their end of the deal within a certain time frame, you are entitled to a refund under BC law.
  • We have a process to help consumers get refunds in these situations, but there are very specific eligibility requirements (see image below)

But wait! Who cancelled your travel plans (that you booked online)?

There’s an important detail that impacts your right to a refund through our process for distance sales contracts (online purchases). Was it you who cancelled your travel plans or was it the travel supplier? We understand that sometimes your reason for cancelling could feel legitimate and/or outside of your control, but in order for the distance sales laws to apply, it needs to have been the supplier who cancelled for you to be eligible to go through our process for a refund.

Here are some ways to tell whether it was you or the business who cancelled:

I cancelled my travel plans – can I get a refund?

No. If you cancelled the travel plans yourself, you are not eligible to go through our refund process. If your travel provider was prepared to provide your travel services, but you decided not to go, the cancellation and refund laws we oversee do not apply. In these cases, we would suggest you try and reach a solution with the business based on what their cancellation policy allows. You may also be interested to see if your credit card offers any protections or if you’re covered by travel insurance (if you have it). If you have a credit/voucher from the business for a dollar amount, remember that it is not allowed to expire under BC law. Learn more about vouchers and credits for cancelled travel.

I cancelled my travel plans because of travel restrictions – can I get a refund?

No. You are not eligible to go through our process for a refund if the travel service was available to you and you decided not to travel – even if it was because of COVID-19 travel restrictions or due to the floods in BC. In these cases, you are bound to the cancellation policy you signed when you booked the travel. Review the cancellation policy to find out what the terms and conditions of your contract allow. You may also be interested to see if your credit card offers any protections or if you’re covered by travel insurance (if you have it). If you have a credit/voucher from the business for a dollar amount, remember that it is not allowed to expire under BC law. Learn more about vouchers and credits for cancelled travel.

The travel supplier cancelled my travel plans – can I get a refund?

Assuming you meet all the criteria, yes. If you booked your travel plans online or over the phone and it was the business (airline, cruise, etc.) who cancelled your plans, then you would likely be eligible to go through our process for a refund. You will be required to show proof that your plans were cancelled by the business. This could look like an email notification from the travel provider letting you know that your flight/cruise was cancelled, or that the ski resort/hotel was closed, etc.

Getting your refund

There’s a lot to know, and a number of steps to follow to get your refund, so we recommend you start by reading this page: Refunds for cancelled travel.

Read it carefully, as it has detailed information about eligibility, what forms to use, and the steps and documentation needed to request a refund properly. You will be asked to provide proof that it was the travel supplier who cancelled the travel plans, so please have your documentation ready as you move through the steps.

Please be aware that the laws we oversee when it comes to these transactions are very specific and not everyone will be eligible to go through the process for a refund.

Questions? Share them in the comment section below.

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Air Canada refunds: what you might not know

About Consumer Protection BC

We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.