Greek consumer groups said this week that a recently announced voucher plan for travel in Greece at a later date instead of full refunds for trips canceled due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic defies national and EU regulation.
In a letter this week to relevant ministries, Athens-based consumer groups EKPIZO and POMEK are calling for the respect of consumer rights; offering customers the right to choose vouchers or refunds; ensuring liquidity for the tourism sector; executing refunds immediately; implementing additional support and insurance measures for tourism and travel companies; and that vouchers should apply for at least a year and should be transferrable, open in terms of destination and company, and refundable if not used within the given period.
EKPIZO and POMEK underline that according to both Greek and EU law, voucher schemes are optional, adding that dozens of customers have filed complaints about being forced to accept vouchers instead of refunds.
The groups go on to add that coupon schemes have not been adopted by the majority of EU member states, and are offered as an alternative for a short period of time and only as protection in cases of insolvency.
It should be reminded that the European Commission reiterated that was not against vouchers as an alternative to cash refunds for canceled travel bookings due to Covid-19, but only under the condition that they are voluntary and secured against insolvency of tour operators, travel agents and airlines.
Greece recently passed a regulation allowing Greek airlines, ferries and tourism enterprises (hotels and travel agencies) to reimburse customers with 18-month vouchers for canceled bookings instead of cash refunds.
The Greek groups together with other consumer bodies in the EU under the BEUC (European Consumer Organisation) umbrella are calling on the European Commission and EU officials to cooperate and to reach a balanced solution for both customers and the tourism industry. They recommend the establishment of an emergency fund for the tourism and travel sector and to ensure that all Covid-19 support measures are in line with the law.
Lastly, the consumer groups are encouraging anyone facing problems with canceled travel plans due to the coronavirus to file an official complaint.