Victorian couple Kay and Paul McAloney paid $22,194 to Webjet Exclusives for a cruise, rail trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, accommodation and flights.

But like hundreds of customers, they are still awaiting their refund.

When their trip of a lifetime was cancelled, the couple, who had contacted Webjet Exclusives for a refund, were immediately issued a credit voucher, which is now valid for three years.

But the couple, who are in their 70s, say they just want their money back as they don’t feel up to another international trip.

“This was our big international trip and we had spent so much money on it. What are we going to do with a $22,000 voucher? We can’t see ourselves using the voucher around Australia,” said Mrs McAloney.

It’s now been a year, and the McAloney’s are still waiting for their money from Webjet Exclusives, and they feel like it’s their right to get a refund.

“We have sent them several emails and phone calls requesting our refund. And we have outlined to them that because of our age, we would not be travelling internationally. What we found so frustrating is that they refused to disclose which travel provider our money has been paid too,” said Mrs McAloney.

“We found out that Celebrity Cruises were refunding customers if their travel agent had put a request in by December 2020. We just want some money back.”

Sandra Cameron, a Cruise Passenger reader, booked a cruise worth $13,000 with Cruise 1st with her elderly parents. But she only received a third of her money.

“My elderly parents and I were supposed to be going on a trip in April 2020. The trip was fully paid for in January 2020. And after a lot of issues they have only received $4,600 back of the $13,000.

“Whilst I realise COVID has caused many difficulties my mum has made many phone calls and early 2020 she was told she was entitled to a full refund or credits she chose the refund and was told that would happen.

“Now we are in April 2021 and my father has unfortunately had a very hard year with a diagnosis of cancer and not only battling that, but the stress of not getting their money back or any credit. No one is answering our calls or emails as you can only imagine the stress and anxiety it is causing my parents is terrible.”

These stories, and others has prompted Consumer Advocate of the Facebook group, Travel Industry Issues – the Need for Change for Australians, Adam Glezer to start a petition to help thousands of Australians still out of pocket from their travel providers.

“ We started the petition because a lack of consumer protection leaves Australians extremely vulnerable in situations like this. The reality is, when a service can’t be provided due to an event outside of human control, consumer guarantees do not apply, such as a right to a refund,” he said. 
“We are calling on the Government to draft provisions within the Australian Consumer Law to provide refunds for consumers in such events. If customers spend money in good faith and do not receive a service, they should be always getting their money back”.
He also said that many of the people who he has spoken to that have tried to get their refunds back, have endured job losses, serious medical conditions and terminal illness.

“Consumer Guarantees under the ACL (Australian Consumer Law) were not applicable during the pandemic. Customers lost the Consumer Guarantee for a refund for services not provided when their travel bookings were cancelled due to COVID-19 and had to interpret “force majeure” clauses and argue Frustrated Contracts and Undue Enrichment,” said Mr Glezer.

“At an industry level, travel companies and industry bodies lobbied to restrict credit card charge backs lodged by customers to obtain their funds. At an individual level, many Australians have resorted to arguing their case at State Civil and Administrative Tribunals.”

And he is advocating for better protection for consumers, similar to the laws that are in place in regions like the European Union and the United States.

“Post-COVID, many travel providers having created new terms and conditions that preclude cash refunds. Consumers that hold credits for existing travel booking are concerned that credits are not guaranteed, insured or protected in trust from insolvency,”

“The EU and US have legislated to provide consumers with refunds in the event of travel cancellations. Australian customers seek similar legislative protections.”

Click here to sign the petition.