‘Trip of lifetime’: Couple’s COVID travel refund nightmare
MIRRIWINNI couple Sandra and Garry Van Roos had booked the "trip of a lifetime" but were left out of pocket more than $10,000 when coronavirus shut down their plans.
Ms Van Roos, 67, said they were due to embark on their $38,000 holiday in May.
"APT suspended the tour because of COVID and they would put the full amount in an account to be used by November 2022," she said.
"We asked about a refund; my husband is 72 so we would be better off with that.
"They kept 25 per cent; $10,222. Due to 'privacy' they won't give me the breakdown of what they kept.
"They can put 100 per cent of the money in a special account but if we wanted a refund they would keep one quarter."
The semi-retired cattle farmers had planned the holiday for years.
"It was going to be the most expensive trip we ever took, that money came from our super," Ms Van Roos said.
In a letter to the couple, APT stated "any refund would be less any irrecoverable third party costs, up to 80 per cent of the amount paid to APT."
The agency has thus far refused to provide an itemised account reconciling the money withheld from the Van Roos.
"It is just not fair," Ms Van Roos said. "There was no explanation."
In July the ACCC published its 'Best practice guidance for the Travel Industry for COVID-19 related travel cancellations'.
In the guidelines, the commission states that businesses should "provide an itemised breakdown justifying the amount charged or retained".
In desperation, Ms Van Roos shared her story with consumer advocate Adam Glezer, who started the Facebook page Travel Industry Issues - The Need For Change for Australians, five weeks ago.
"They are holding on to customers' money without giving an explanation of where the money is," Mr Glezer said.
"It is beyond reproachable.
"In the latest ACCC ... guide, companies have clearly been instructed that they should break down exactly where a customer's money is for any fees charged, upon request. We need legislation in place to protect customers from situations such as this occurring.
"So many people out there feel lost and trapped and feel like they have nowhere to go; we will be proposing legislation to the federal government because the level of consumer protection in Australia needs significant improvements when it comes to travel."
Mr Glezer recommended that would be travellers caught in a similar trap to the Van Roos join his Facebook group. He said was a great outlet for support and to receive advice from other members.
An APT spokeswoman said the company was unable "to disclose details of individual bookings due to privacy".
"For those guests preferring a refund, the amount is less irrecoverable third party costs and overheads as outlined in our standard terms and conditions," she said.
Originally published as 'Trip of lifetime': Couple's COVID travel refund nightmare