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AG Shapiro: Travel, Event Refund Policies Must Be Honored During COVID-19 Emergency

AG Shapiro

HARRISBURG, PA — Attorney General Josh Shapiro is urging businesses to honor their promised refund policies for customers who had their trips and events canceled due to COVID-19 closures.

“If the policy says a consumer gets a full refund if an event is canceled, that consumer better get a full refund,” said Attorney General Shapiro.  “These businesses cannot sail away with consumers’ money when the trip isn’t happening or a concert is canceled with no reschedule date.”

Entertainment, travel, and event companies typically have a refund policy for consumers for unplanned and emergency circumstances, like COVID-19, that require an unexpected or emergency cancellation.

Attorney General Shapiro is reminding companies of these obligations to their customers:

Businesses cannot legally retain a penalty if an event is canceled because of COVID-19. In most cases, they may only retain a reasonable fee for their time and expenses, not the full cost of an event. For example, if a wedding reception is canceled because of COVID-19, the venue cannot retain the entire cost of the venue rental as a penalty for the cancellation—however, they may keep a fee for the cost of holding the venue date and planning logistics of the event, if the contract allows.

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Businesses that don’t honor their written cancellation policies could be violating state consumer protection laws. The Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law allows for restitution to consumers and penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation and $3,000 for each violation involving a consumer age 60 or older. If this same wedding venue alters their cancellation policy after a couple has canceled their event, and the venue’s policy change retroactively affects them, they may be eligible for restitution under state law.

The Office of Attorney General also urges businesses to be flexible with their cancellation policies, asking businesses without an existing refund date-cutoff to offer customers full refunds for events and trips being rescheduled more than 60 days from the original cancellation.

Consumers who have not been refunded for canceled trips and events can dispute charges with their credit card companies, or file a complaint with the AG’s Bureau of Consumer Protection if they believe they have been harmed. Consumers who need airline refunds should file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, at https://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm.

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