Sunday, November 28

‘Such Scam’: Booker Beware As Travelers Are Affected By Covid-19 Cancellation Fees

Tourists warn customers to be careful, as they are affected by cancellation fees for rentals booked during closing.

Waiheke Island Ferry Terminal.

Waiheke Island.
Photo: 123rf

Eloise, a Waikato resident, who did not want her last name used, lost more than $ 800 on an Airbnb rental that she couldn’t stay in because the country was locked in.

She told RNZ that she and a friend paid $ 880 to reserve a Queenstown rental through Airbnb from August 19-22.

They booked it in February, and when the country went to level 4, two days before they were to go on vacation, she got in touch and asked him to transfer the reservation to another date.

But the property manager told them that the landlord would not re-book the rental or refund the money.

“She kept referring to a strict cancellation policy, saying there was no refund if we canceled within seven days, but we didn’t cancel, we just wanted to postpone it for another weekend.

“It was a blockade, they weren’t even willing to negotiate with us.”

She said they were told that the owner was not prepared to rebook their stay, as their reservation had already “held the calendar”, even though a level 4 lockdown had taken effect.

They were told that they were only eligible to be reimbursed for the reservation service fee – only $ 40.

“Not being able to travel abroad, you get so excited about these parts of New Zealand that you haven’t seen,” Eloise said.

“We had not been to Queenstown before, we were very excited.

“It just put a bad taste in our mouths.”

They were able to save their flights and planned activities as credit, but not the $ 880 spent on accommodation.

“They are all valid for one year, the only person who did not attend the party was Airbnb.

“We were locked up for weeks and the most important thing is, how many more people did they do that to?

“How much money are they sitting on, for not even renting the place?”

And she’s not alone in her experience: Consumer NZ says that since the most recent closure, its contact center has received up to 15 complaints about accommodations affected by Covid-19 each week.

“The New Zealand consumer would prefer that customers get a full refund from the company, especially if they face difficulties,” said a spokesperson.

“We expect companies to be flexible with cancellations during closing.

“It is in the interest of good customer relationships that they allow this.”

The spokesperson urged customers to read the fine print when booking travel or accommodation as the pandemic progresses.

“If you are looking to book a vacation or accommodation, be prepared to potentially lose your reservation and any payments you have made if you cancel.

“Most of the hosting providers have now modified their terms and conditions to protect them if Covid-19 hits and they face a loss of business.”

In Auckland, accommodation provider Waiheke Holiday Homes defends its decision to charge fees for a canceled trip this weekend, saying it is in line with agreed terms and conditions.

But it left another woman frustrated and had to pay nearly $ 250 out of pocket.

In February, RNZ digital editor Rhonwyn Newson booked a vacation home on Waiheke Island next weekend to celebrate his birthday with friends.

She paid the rental deposit for the group of 10 with Waiheke Holiday Homes.

But now that the Auckland lockdown is approaching its fifth week, he knew he probably couldn’t get away to celebrate his 40th birthday.

He didn’t want to postpone the trip, it was specifically to celebrate his birthday, and since Covid-19 was causing constant uncertainty for travelers, along with trying to align the calendars of 10 people, he thought canceling was the best option.

“I called to cancel our reservation, but they said they would still charge me a 15 percent cancellation fee, as well as a non-refundable service fee,” Newson said.

“I’m so mad about it, because there’s just no way that we can legally travel under lock and key, it’s out of our hands.”

The fares cost Newson nearly $ 250 for a trip he couldn’t make, on a rental he can’t stay in.

Newson said he asked for a full refund, but was told that he had agreed to the terms and conditions of the rental when making the reservation.

According to Waiheke Holiday Homes’ Covid policy in its booking terms and conditionsIf alert level restrictions prevent the customer from traveling to and from the island, they have two options.

They can rebook the rental at a later time at no cost, or they can cancel their reservation and receive a refund, less a 15 percent administration fee and a service fee.

While Newson received a partial refund, he wanted to warn others to check the terms and conditions of their reservation, especially as some organizations add a Covid-19 cancellation policy.

“When you go to book accommodation in these Covid times, be sure to review all the terms and conditions, especially if they have a Covid-19 cancellation policy,” he said.

“Or ask specifically what their policy is before booking, just to make sure you’re completely satisfied with it.”

In an emailed statement to the plaintiff, Waiheke Holiday Homes emphasized that the client had been introduced to, and agreed to, the terms and conditions of the rental multiple times.

Those terms and conditions included the provider’s Covid-19 policy.

“If the terms were not acceptable to you, you had no obligation to proceed with your reservation.

“The terms and conditions are very well advertised to you, and are obvious and straightforward throughout the inquiry and booking process.”

For Newson, it has been a frustrating blocking experience.

“I went online and saw that Waiheke Holiday Homes had taken the subsidy from the government during the closing, so the fact that they have done so and are also charging cancellation fees, I thought it was a scam.”

“I know companies are making it difficult too, but a lot of people are having a hard time,” he said.

“If you are booking something, be sure to check the cancellation policies, especially around Covid-19.

“This was a horrible thing to go through in a really difficult time, so I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to go through that either.”

When contacted by RNZ, Waiheke Holiday Homes said they had given Newson a statement and had nothing more to add.

The Consumer NZ spokesperson said Waiheke Holiday Homes’ Covid-19 clause appeared to be transparent and straightforward at the time of booking.

“In our opinion, a term that allows the company to keep a substantial part or all of its money is likely to be unfair and open to challenge, but 15 percent is a relatively low cancellation fee for the complaints we have received.” .

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