The global health crisis brought about by the spread of Covid-19 has led to the cancellation of travel plans for thousands of people around the world. In these cases, the law provides for a refund in cash or vouchers, at the user's discretion.
The Justice of the Peace of Palermo has ruled in favor of a citizen who had a trip canceled due to the pandemic. The man had booked a return flight to Paris for the end of April. In the out-of-court procedure, however, his right to reimbursement was not recognized, a ruling that forced him to appeal to the judicial authority.
It should be noted that, in order to have a similar outcome regarding being reimbursed for a vacation, the passenger has to move forward with a lawsuit against the airline. For those who decide to sue, too many give up in the out-of-court phase, enabling travel companies to not address the issue of reimbursement.
The ruling by the Justice of the Peace ruled that the traveller has the right to be reimbursed for the entire fiscal amount paid to the company, not just vouchers or the option to choose fallback flights. The airline was not only ordered to refund the client in full, but to pay for the trial expenses the customer incurred.
The reasons for the sentence
Law no. 27 of April 24, 2020, provided that in the event of flight cancellation due to the Covid-19 global health crisis, reimbursement for the amount could be paid by way of a 12-month voucher, which would fulfill the airline's obligations to the customer, irregardless of if the customer agreed to this mode of reimbursement.
This decision was contested by the European commissioners and the Antitrust Authority, who assessed the customer's right to decide whether to accept a voucher or to be enabled to request a full refund of the amount initially spent upon purchase.
For European emissaries, "in the event of extraordinary circumstances", such as those of a pandemic, could be reason that a customer be " entitled to a cash refund".
Following this, the Italian Parliament adapted the law, making changes in law no. 77 of July 17, 2020.
According to the new provisions, where it is impossible to fulfil transportation, accommodation or tourist packages/contracts due to the Covid-19 crisis, the consumer is protected by receiving either a total refund in cash or, by choice, through a voucher, with a longer duration than that of the initial 12 months provided for.
The extension of the duration of the voucher from 12 to 18 months must also be applied to all those issued before changes to the law. At the expiry of the voucher, without having been able to use it, one can still be entitled to reimbursement of expenses both for tourist/hotel packages and for any mode of travel (for a flight, rather than for a journey by train or ship).
If the voucher expires
After twelve months from the issue of a flight voucher, a customer can request a cash refund, while to obtain a cash refund for the amount paid for a tourist package or hotel, one must wait 18 months to pass before you can change the type of refund from voucher to cash. Within two weeks, the company is required to process the refund.
Law 77/2020 has also established a fund to indemnify consumers holding an unused voucher and not refunded upon expiry, due to the insolvency or bankruptcy of the tour operator/carrier.
The Covid-19 emergency transcends the damage from a ruined vacation only if the times of the cancelled trip correspond to the dates within the period of the emergency.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.