Greek Consumer Groups: Travel Vouchers Should be Optional
Overwhelmed with complaints and questions over refunds for affected travel plans due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, Greece’s consumer groups are calling for the implementation of EU regulations that foresee full refunds for package travel. The groups underline that vouchers for travel at a later date should only be an option for consumers.
More specifically, Athens-based consumer groups EKPIZO and POMEK are requesting that the EU’s Package Travel Directive (PTD) entitling customers to a full refund for holidays canceled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic be applied.
Consumers are turning to the groups for guidance with regards to travel plans that have either been canceled due to the deadly coronavirus, deferred, or terminated because customers do not wish to or cannot risk their health by traveling at a later date with vouchers.
The two consumer groups sent a relevant letter to Greek authorities calling for the implementation of the EU directive and the option by the customer to request a refund in full; an alternative solution which includes coupons and vouchers; the option for a change in destination with validity for a year; and the right to a full refund should the voucher period expire or the tour operator declare bankruptcy.
The government said it was looking into the request.
At the same time, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) has urged EU member governments to resolve the issue.
It should be reminded that the consumer groups’ call comes after the European Commission encouraged customers to opt for vouchers instead of refunds and consider traveling at a later date in efforts to offset the potential losses for travel agents and operators resulting from mass cancelations due to the coronavirus health crisis. The European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA) has repeatedly called for more flexible reimbursement rules for package travel.
Denmark’s action was among the solutions suggested by the BEUC according to which the Commission approved state subsidies to cover package holiday plan losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic and that vouchers should be an optional choice for consumers and only in certain circumstances.
Additionally, another proposal involves the creation of a special EU emergency fund to cover refunds for travel that will protect both consumers and tour operators.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the Greek tourism ministry said it was examining a new regulation by which tourism enterprises and airlines operating in Greece would be able to reimburse their customers by issuing 18-month vouchers.