Thousands of Australians will receive additional refund amounts for cancelled travel after Australian Pacific Touring Pty Ltd (APT), trading as APT and Travelmarvel, agreed to stop deducting marketing and overhead costs from booking refunds and to reimburse customers who had previously had these costs deducted from their refund.
Where a refund is sought (as opposed to a credit), APT will continue to deduct an amount from refunds to cover reasonable losses that it has not been able to recover, and will also deduct a fee per booking relating to administration costs in arranging the refunds.
The ACCC was concerned that during the COVID-19 pandemic APT had been deducting, and representing to consumers that it was entitled to deduct, greater amounts from refunds than it was entitled to deduct under its terms and conditions.
Following months of engagement, the ACCC has now accepted a commitment from APT to stop deducting marketing and overhead costs from booking refunds impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic.
APT will provide customers who have previously received a refund quote with a revised quote, and will reimburse customers who have already received a reduced refund due to marketing and overhead cost deductions.
“The costs that APT deducted for marketing and overheads amounted to 15 per cent of the booking price and, with many holidays costing over $20,000, this meant a significant amount was withheld from the refunds given to consumers,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“The ACCC considered that APT was not entitled to deduct these marketing and overhead costs as they were incurred before the booking was made and they would have been incurred regardless of whether a booking was made.”
“We are pleased that thousands of customers will now receive additional refunds and that this commitment will provide faster redress for consumers than court action, which would have been our next step,” Ms Court said.
The ACCC understands that affected customers have either already been contacted by APT or will shortly be contacted about their revised refund.
“The ACCC’s position on refunds for cancelled travel has been very clear for almost a year now: travel businesses cannot deduct fees unless there are applicable terms and conditions in their contract that expressly permit them to do so,” Ms Court said.
“Our COVID-19 Taskforce has engaged with dozens of travel businesses since the start of the pandemic and we will continue monitoring the industry to make sure consumers are receiving the remedy they are entitled to.”
APT will continue to consider, on a case-by-case basis, providing a full refund to any consumers who can provide evidence that they are experiencing medical or financial hardship arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
APT is Australia’s largest family-owned tour and cruise company offering Australian and international tours and cruises.
The consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law are unlikely to apply to cancellations as a direct result of government restrictions.
In general, whether you are entitled to a credit note or a refund for cancelled travel bookings will depend on the terms and conditions of your booking.
Terms and conditions vary between travel providers, and in some cases you might not be entitled to a full, or any, refund of your booking. Some terms and conditions provide for the ability to re-book, or credit notes, rather than refunds.
The ACCC published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on consumers and fair trading in November 2020.
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