COVID-19 and travel refunds

MEDIA RELEASE – As would-be travellers continue to pursue refunds for cancelled flights, cruises and other travel plans due to COVID-19, Consumer Protection BC wants British Columbians to know they may have options under provincial law.

After over a year of cancelled travel plans, many consumers have had issues securing refunds from airlines and other travel suppliers.

“We know that this has been a serious issue for people, especially during a time when many are experiencing financial hardship,” says Shahid Noorani, vice-president. “Travel services are not cheap and being denied refunds during a pandemic can have a significant financial impact on consumers.”

What some BC consumers and businesses might not be aware of are the cancellation and refund rights that exist if travel plans are booked online, through email, or over the phone. These transactions, called distance sales contracts, are not booked in person and offer certain protections to consumers who don’t receive the services they paid for. If eligible consumers take the proper steps to exercise their rights, they should be provided with a full refund in the same way they paid, as outlined in the law. Consumer Protection BC has been successful in securing refunds for several consumers who have followed their process under the distance sales laws.

While some airlines have initiated a refund process for consumers to follow, not all travel suppliers have made this option available. Consumer Protection BC encourages impacted travellers to first go through the refund process of the supplier (if one is available) before exercising their cancellation and refund rights under law. Consumer Protection BC has detailed information available on their website about eligibility, what forms to use, and the steps needed to request a refund properly.

“Many consumers do not know that they are entitled to a refund under BC laws. Businesses and credit card issuers are often equally unaware of their obligations under these laws,” said Dr. Gabor Lukacs, president of Air Passenger Rights. “We warmly welcome the provincial regulator’s initiative to provide the public with reliable information on BC consumer protection laws.”

Recognizing that many consumers have been unsuccessful in securing refunds for travel services over the last year, Consumer Protection BC is reminding businesses of their obligations under the law. As a provincial regulator, the agency can legally issue financial penalties and order non-compliant businesses to refund impacted consumers.

“If travel suppliers are conducting business in British Columbia, they are required to abide by the laws in BC,” says Noorani. “If they choose to ignore these laws, we’re willing to take action to bring them into compliance and help get consumers their money back.”

What impacted consumers need to know

If consumers want to learn more about how to exercise their rights when it comes to travel refunds, Consumer Protection BC encourages them to visit their website for detailed information about eligibility, what forms to use, and the steps needed to request a refund properly. If eligible consumers are denied a full refund after following their process, Consumer Protection BC wants to them to submit a complaint for their review and possible investigation.

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

About Consumer Protection BC:

Consumer Protection BC is the regulator of a variety of sectors and specific consumer transactions in the province. Our mandate is to license and inspect our regulated businesses, respond to consumer inquiries, investigate alleged violations of consumer protection laws, and to classify all general release motion pictures.

For more information about our organization, to read our recent enforcement actions, and to learn about our inspection and complaint-handling processes, please visit our corporate website at You can also follow us on FacebookInstagram and YouTube or read our blog for valuable consumer tips and resources.

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