Consumer First Alert: You canceled your trip. Can you get your money back?

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 1:11 PM CDT
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Frustrated viewers have reached out to Consumer First Alert about not being able to get refunds for trips not taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Better Business Bureau received more than 53,000 complaints and reviews about this issue between March and May. Travel is the top coronavirus-related consumer complaint.

"People are filing complaints against airline industries, vacation rental, online retailers and ticket sales. Those seem to be the top four categories," says Susan Bach, Better Business Bureau.

Viewers told Consumer First Alert about a high school trip to Costa Rica that was canceled. One viewer say the tour company kept $850 each student put toward the trip.

Another viewer said, "In our insurance we were guaranteed a refund for any natural disaster. You'd think that the insurance would cover a pandemic."

Bach says, "It really comes down to what the terms and conditions say when you filed that contract. Who canceled that trip? Was it the school that canceled? Was it the airline? Was it the venue in the other country that they were traveling to? What do those terms and conditions say?"

We reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for guidance.

"There is no blanket answer when it comes to these refunds. It depends on facts, depends on the contracts and depends on disclosures. And there's a rampant number of cancellations, obviously, because of the pandemic. So we're trying to work with consumers to understand what their rights are and if in fact the contract says as much, working to mediate these complaints with the business where we can," says Lara Sutherlin.

Bach says, "Some people say they wanted a refund because they were afraid of getting sick. Well that's not covered. If they are sick, that is covered."

Some travel companies are offering vouchers for a future trip. That won't do much good for the high school seniors who have graduated and moved on.

The Better Business Bureau suggests asking if you could transfer the trip to another person.

Try negotiations.

"These are very unusual circumstances, and I know that there are a lot of venues that are working with their customers that are trying to refund or reschedule," says Bach. "You really have to go into conversation as a negotiation and see if you can find something that is mutually beneficial for both of you."

You may want to consider purchasing travel insurance in the future.

for the Better Business Bureau Guide to Travel Insurance.