Consumers with canceled travel plans due the Covid-19 pandemic have the right to choose between cash refunds or reimbursement via vouchers, the European Commission reminded on Wednesday.
While presenting a package of tourism and transport guidelines to help Member States cope in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission referred specifically to travel vouchers and released a recommendation, aiming to make them a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips (due to Covid-19 measures and restrictions), which has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators.
“European consumers can be reassured: The Commission will not downgrade their EU rights for reimbursement for cancelled travel. We recommend, however, making vouchers more attractive for those who chose this option,” Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, said.
Under EU rules, travellers have the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for canceled transport tickets (plane, train, bus/coach, and ferries) or package travel.
Vouchers should be more attractive
“Making vouchers more attractive, as an alternative to reimbursement in money, would increase their acceptance by passengers and travellers,” the recommendation says.
According to the Commission, making vouchers more attractive would help to ease the liquidity problems of carriers and organisers and could ultimately lead to better protection of the interests of consumers.
In order to make vouchers more attractive, the Commission’s recommendation adds that organisers and carriers could consider issuing vouchers with a higher value than the amount of any payments made for the package travel or transport service originally booked, for example through an additional lump sum or additional service elements.
The recommendation adds that for vouchers to be considered a reliable alternative to reimbursement in money, they should be covered by protection against insolvency of the carrier or of the organiser that is sufficiently effective and robust.
Recommended characteristics of vouchers
Among other things, the Commission’s recommendation says that voluntary vouchers should:
– have a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable after at most one year, if not redeemed.
– provide passengers sufficient flexibility and allow them to travel on the same route under the same service conditions or the travellers to book a package travel contract with the same type of services or of equivalent quality.
– be transferable to another passenger without any additional cost (for transport services).
The Commission said that it is allowing member states to introduce guarantee schemes for vouchers, to support companies in the transport and travel sectors and to ensure that reimbursement claims caused by the coronavirus pandemic are satisfied. The schemes for vouchers can be approved by the Commission very rapidly, upon notification by the Member State concerned.
Click below to download the Commission’s guidelines: