Extra refunds on way for cancelled travel

Australian Pacific Touring says the ACCC had a different interpretation of its terms and conditions.
Australian Pacific Touring says the ACCC had a different interpretation of its terms and conditions.

Thousands of customers will receive extra money after the consumer watchdog examined refunds given by Australia's largest family-owned tour and cruise company.

Australian Pacific Touring Pty Ltd came to the attention of the ACCC during the pandemic for seemingly deducting more than it was entitled to under its terms and conditions.

"The costs that APT deducted for marketing and overheads amounted to 15 per cent of the booking price and, with many holidays costing over $20,000, this meant a significant amount was withheld from the refunds given to consumers," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

"The ACCC considered that APT was not entitled to deduct these marketing and overhead costs as they were incurred before the booking was made and they would have been incurred regardless of whether a booking was made."

APT said it understood the ACCC had a "different interpretation" of it's terms and conditions but they had come to an agreed position.

"For some guests affected by imposed suspensions, this means that the refund amount initially advised, paid or available to them will be increased," managing director Chris Hall said.

"The adjustment relates to a reduction in the fixed marketing and overhead charges. These charges have now been replaced by a one-off $400 per passenger administration fee."

APT has confirmed all impacted guests will be contact by the end of the month.

"The APT Travel Group has made constructive steps of its own volition to provide greater scope and clarity around the issue of refund processing," Mr Hall said.

"Throughout this entire period we have also been considering, on a case-by-case basis, providing a full refund to any consumers who can provide evidence that they are experiencing hardship, including medical or financial, arising from the COVID-19 pandemic."

Had the refund issue not been addressed, the ACCC said the next step would have been court action.

"We are pleased that thousands of customers will now receive additional refunds and that this commitment will provide faster redress for consumers than court action, which would have been our next step," Ms Court said.

"The ACCC's position on refunds for cancelled travel has been very clear for almost a year now, travel businesses cannot deduct fees unless there are applicable terms and conditions in their contract that expressly permit them to do so."

Australian Associated Press