Event and travel cancellations

COVID-19 has resulted in many people having travel plans, and event tickets cancelled. Here's some helpful information if this has happened to you.

Remember we are still in a pandemic situation. If you are thinking of booking an event or travel, make sure you check the terms and conditions to understand your rights – especially if Public Health Orders impose new restrictions.

Event cancellations

I bought tickets for an event that has been cancelled. Am I entitled to a refund?

The event may be cancelled due to Public Health Order restrictions that address the risk of COVID-19. This impacts your rights under consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law, however, you may have other options available.

It’s important you first check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier, who may be the ticketing agent or promoter. The ticket’s contractual terms and conditions will govern what options are available to you.

After reviewing the terms and conditions, you may wish to contact your supplier to discuss all options. Generally, a negotiated outcome will lead to the best result for both parties.

Your options may be:

  • a refund. Your entitlement to seek a refund and terminate your contract is affected by the terms and conditions. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you purchased tickets to the event, businesses can’t change the terms at a later time and deny you a refund.
  • a credit note or voucher. These allow you to use the money already paid to the supplier at a later date. Any credit notes or vouchers should have an expiration date  long enough to allow you to use it, considering ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

You may also have rights under ‘frustrated’ contracts law. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing these events.

If you’re unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law, and the Australian Consumer Law.

Fair Trading encourages all businesses to work with their customers and treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances.

I bought tickets to an event that has been cancelled. Am I entitled to compensation for travel or accommodation expenses booked separately?

You should first check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier. The ticket you bought will include contractual terms and conditions. These terms and conditions govern what options are available to you. There may be terms and conditions addressing your circumstance.

You should also check whether you’re covered under your travel insurance policy, if you have one.

After you’ve reviewed the terms and conditions, contact your travel or accommodation provider to see if they are prepared to offer a replacement service, refund or voucher.

However, as the event was cancelled due to government restrictions, it’s unlikely you’ll be entitled to compensation.

What are my rights when the supplier refuses to give me a refund and only wants to offer a date or credit for the future? 

If you can’t reach an agreement with the supplier, check the terms and conditions of your contract.

If you have a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you made your booking, businesses can’t change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.

Also, businesses can’t mislead consumers about the way their terms and conditions work. For example, claiming a consumer doesn’t have the option of a refund where this isn’t the case.

You may also have rights under ‘frustrated ‘contracts law. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing such events.

If you’re unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should get independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law, and the Australian Consumer Law.

NSW Fair Trading encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances.

Why are my rights different when cancellation is due to public health restrictions?

Your rights under the Australian Consumer Law may be different when cancellation is due to a government restrictions such as current Public Health Orders.

Normally, businesses must provide consumer guarantees for their goods or services. However, Public Health Orders can affect these guarantees since they may make it unlawful for the supplier to supply the goods or services as agreed.

It should be noted suppliers must take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence before they agree to supply goods or services.

For example, they should be considering restrictions already in place and assess the likelihood of being able to supply their goods or services for future events.

Will I receive a refund if the business shuts down as a result of the COVID-19 Public Health Orders?

We suggest contacting the business to discuss a possible solution.

In certain situations, you would have to register as a creditor.

More information is available on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission website.

I bought tickets for an event but don’t want to attend due to concerns about COVID-19. Am I entitled to a refund?

If you have bought tickets for an event and no longer want to attend due to COVID-19 concerns, you should first check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier. The ticket you bought will include contractual terms and conditions. These terms and conditions govern what options are available to you. There may be terms and conditions addressing your circumstances and you may be entitled to a refund or a credit voucher.

Try to also recall any representations made to you when you bought the ticket. Due to the extenuating circumstances COVID-19 presents, your ticket supplier might be prepared to offer a refund or credit voucher.

If there are no terms and conditions addressing your circumstances, and the ticket supplier is unwilling to provide a refund or credit, your termination of the contract with the supplier might constitute a ‘change of mind’. Ordinarily, where you have a ‘change of mind’, suppliers aren’t required to provide refunds.

If the event can’t be performed as originally agreed, terminating the contract may not qualify as a ‘change of mind’. You will have the options in the terms and conditions of the contract regarding termination, non-performance, refunds, or changes.

Customers may also have rights under ‘frustrated’ contract law. A ‘frustrated’ contract occurs where a contract can no longer be performed as agreed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract already addressing such events.

Businesses can offer to renegotiate a contract with a customer to accommodate changes in line with government restrictions. However, renegotiation can only occur if both parties to the contract agree.

I have pre-ordered food for a party or other gathering I am hosting. The event cannot proceed as originally planned due to Government restrictions. I no longer need some or all of the food. What are my options?

If you haven’t yet taken delivery of the food, check the terms and conditions of the contract you entered into with the supplier (including any verbal terms agreed to). This could outline any options available to you, such as your rights to terminate the contract, seek a refund, or change the amount of food or the date you take delivery.

If you have a right to a refund under your terms and conditions, businesses and suppliers cannot deny that refund.  Businesses cannot mislead you about the terms and conditions by claiming you do not have the option of a refund when this is available.

If there are no applicable terms and conditions, you can negotiate with the business to make changes to your order, such as reducing the size of the order or rescheduling.

We encourage all businesses to work with their customers and treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances. Renegotiation can only happen if the business and consumer both agree.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with the business or supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice. It is unlikely you will be entitled to a refund or other remedy under Australian Consumer Law. However, you may have rights under legislation or under ‘frustrated’ contract law. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside the control of both parties and there are no terms in the contract addressing this.

If you have already taken delivery of the food, consider how you can safely store and consume the food, particularly any perishable food. Check the NSW Food Authority website for tips on safely storing food.

My customer’s event can no longer go ahead in the way it was originally booked. Government restrictions have meant it is affected directly or indirectly (for example restrictions affecting some of the guests attending). Do I have to provide a refund? Do I have other options?

Where an event can’t go ahead in the way it was originally booked due to government restrictions, it’s unlikely the customer will be entitled to a refund or other remedies under Australian Consumer Law. This includes weddings where guests from a cluster area are unable to travel outside that cluster area to attend the event.

However, businesses must still honour the existing terms and conditions of their contract with the customer. This includes terms about termination, negotiating or making necessary alterations to the booking, non-performance, refunds or changes.

Businesses may wish to offer the customer a credit note or voucher. However, they can’t mislead customers about their terms and conditions such as claiming a customer doesn’t have the option of a refund where one is available.

Business are expected to honour the terms and conditions agreed to at the time of the booking and must not change the terms and conditions after a booking is made.

Businesses should also be aware the customer may have rights under contract law, such as for ‘frustrated’ contracts. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing such events.

Fair Trading encourages all businesses to work with their customers and treat customers fairly, including negotiating reasonable changes to a booking to allow the event to proceed, either on the original date or on a different date. This should be where it is allowed under any health restrictions, and both the business and customer agree to the changes.

What if government restrictions indirectly affect my event?

If you have booked an event that is permitted under a Public Health Order, but you wish to postpone or cancel because it is indirectly affected by government restrictions imposed on cluster areas (for example, some of your guests are from a cluster area and cannot attend as they are subject to restrictions), you should check the terms and conditions of your booking. These terms and conditions should outline options available to you, such as your rights to terminate the contract, seek a refund, or change the date.

If you have a right to a refund under your terms and conditions, businesses and suppliers cannot deny that refund.  Businesses cannot mislead consumers about the operation of their terms and conditions, such as claiming that a consumer does not have the option of a refund when this is not the case.

If you do not have an explicit right to a refund, you can negotiate with the business to make changes to the event, such as reducing the size of the event or rescheduling. We encourage all businesses to work with their customers and treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances. Renegotiation can only happen if the business and consumer both agree.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with the business or supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice. It is unlikely you will be entitled to a refund under consumer guarantees under Australian Consumer Law. Still, you may have rights under legislation or contract law, such as “frustrated” contracts. A frustrated contract can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside the control of both parties, and there are no terms in the contract already addressing such events

Travel cancellations

My flight, cruise or tour has been cancelled. Am I entitled to a refund?

Your flight, cruise or tour may be cancelled due to restrictions under Public Health Orders to address the risk of COVID-19. This impacts your rights under the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law, however, you may have other remedies available to you.

It is important that you first check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier, who may be the travel agent or an airline or accommodation provider. These terms and conditions govern what options may be available to you.

After reviewing the terms and conditions, you may wish to engage with your supplier to discuss all options. Generally, a negotiated outcome will lead to the best result for both parties. Your options may be:

  • seeking a refund. Your entitlement to seek a refund and terminate your contract is affected by the terms and conditions. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you made your booking, businesses cannot change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.
  • accepting a credit note or voucher. These allow you to use the money already paid to the supplier at a later date. Any credit notes or vouchers should have an expiration date that is long enough to allow you to use it, considering ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

You may also have rights under ‘frustrated’ contract law. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing these events.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law and the Australian Consumer Law.

Fair Trading encourages businesses to engage with consumers and treat them fairly in these exceptional circumstances.

I’m booked to travel. My travel or accommodation provider is able to accommodate me but I am unable to travel due to Government restrictions. I want to cancel my booking(s). What are my rights?

It is important that you first check the terms and conditions of your contract with your supplier, who may be the travel agent, an airline or an accommodation provider. These terms and conditions govern what options may be available to you.

After reviewing the terms and conditions, you may wish to engage with your supplier to discuss all options. Generally, a negotiated outcome will lead to the best result for both parties. Your options may be:

  • seeking a refund. Your entitlement to seek a refund and terminate your contract is affected by the terms and conditions. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you made your booking, businesses cannot change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.
  • accepting a credit note or voucher. These allow you to use the money already paid to the supplier at a later date. Any credit notes or vouchers should have an expiration date that is long enough to allow you to use it, considering ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

You may also have rights under ‘frustrated’ contract law. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing these events.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law and the Australian Consumer Law.

Fair Trading encourages businesses to engage with consumers and treat them fairly in these exceptional circumstances.

I want to cancel my travel booking because Government restrictions introduced since I made the booking mean I will have to quarantine. What are my rights?

It is important that you first check the terms and conditions of your contract with your supplier, who may be the travel agent, an airline or an accommodation provider. These terms and conditions govern what options may be available to you.

After reviewing the terms and conditions, you may wish to engage with your supplier to discuss all options. Generally, a negotiated outcome will lead to the best result for both parties. Your options may be:

  • seeking a refund. Your entitlement to seek a refund and terminate your contract is affected by the terms and conditions. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you made your booking, businesses cannot change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.
  • accepting a credit note or voucher. These allow you to use the money already paid to the supplier at a later date. Any credit notes or vouchers should have an expiration date that is long enough to allow you to use it, considering ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

You may also have rights under ‘frustrated’ contract law. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing these events.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law and the Australian Consumer Law.

Fair Trading encourages businesses to engage with consumers and treat them fairly in these exceptional circumstances.

Why are my rights different when cancellation is due to public health restrictions?

Your rights under the Australian Consumer Law may be different when a cancellation is due to government restrictions such as current Public Health Orders.

Normally, businesses have to provide consumer guarantees for their goods or services. However, Public Health Orders can affect these guarantees since they may make it unlawful for the supplier to supply the goods or services as agreed.

It should be noted suppliers have to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence before they agree to supply goods or services.

For example, they should be considering restrictions already in place and assess the likelihood of being able to supply their goods or services for future travel.

My flight, cruise or tour service has been cancelled. Am I entitled to compensation for related expenses booked separately?

You should first check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier. These terms and conditions govern your available options. There may be terms and conditions addressing your circumstances.

You should also check if you are covered under any travel insurance policy you may have.

After you’ve reviewed the terms and conditions of your contract, contact your accommodation provider or supplier of those separate expenses to see if they are prepared to offer a replacement service, refund or voucher.

However, as the flight, cruise or tour was cancelled due to government restrictions, it’s unlikely you’ll receive compensation.

I want to cancel my travel booking due to health and safety concerns about COVID-19. What are my rights in this situation in regards to refunds?

If you have bought tickets to travel and no longer want to travel due to COVID-19 concerns, you should first check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier. The ticket you bought will include contractual terms and conditions. These terms and conditions govern what options are available to you. There may be terms and conditions addressing your circumstances and you may be entitled to a replacement service, refund or a credit voucher.

Try to also recall any representations made to you when you booked the ticket. Due to the extenuating circumstances COVID-19 presents, your travel agent or supplier might be prepared to offer a replacement service, refund or credit voucher outside the terms and conditions.

If there are no terms and conditions addressing your circumstances, and the supplier is unwilling to provide a refund or credit, your termination of the contract with the supplier might constitute a ‘change of mind’. Ordinarily, where you have a ‘change of mind’, suppliers aren’t required to provide refunds.

However, if the contract for the travel booking can’t be performed as originally agreed, for example, a tour you paid for is no longer offered), terminating the contract may not qualify as a ‘change of mind’. You will have the options in the terms and conditions of the contract regarding termination, non-performance, refunds, or changes.

Customers may also have rights under contract law in the event of a ‘frustrated’ contract. This occurs where a contract can no longer be performed as agreed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract already addressing such events.

Businesses can offer to renegotiate a contract with a customer to accommodate changes in line with government restrictions. However, renegotiation can only occur if both parties contract agree.

Does my travel insurance have to cover me if I cancel?

You should check the terms and conditions in your travel insurance policy. If it’s unclear if you’re covered, contact your insurer to discuss restrictions and cancellation in your policy.

If you disagree with your insurer, discuss your complaint with them and explain the outcome you’d prefer.

As part of the insurer’s internal dispute resolution, they will have a set number of days to respond to your dispute.

If your dispute remains unresolved, you can contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) for help.

The AFCA Significant Event Hotline 1800 337 444 provides priority service for anyone financially impacted by COVID-19 and who wish to make a complaint about financial products or services.

Will I receive a refund if the business shuts down as a result of the COVID-19 Public Health Orders?

We suggest contacting the business to discuss a possible solution.

In certain situations, you would have to register as a creditor.

More information is available on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission website.

 
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