Helloworld agent wins appeal over COVID-19 refund worth over $9,000

Concept of justice in corona days in world

In an important win for the travel trade, a tribunal panel has ruled that a travel agent was not responsible for refunding clients for a trip that was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal Appeals Panel has set aside orders that Wendy Kiss of Helloworld Gosford refund a consumer in full for bookings even though the suppliers involved only offered credits and a partial refund.

The refund in question was for a trip to Canada and Alaska that was booked in July 2019 including accommodation, international airfares through Air Canada, services from Momento Travel and a railway tour with Rocky Mountaineer.

The booking, which was made for mother and daughter Carolyn Parsons and Constance Dobb, came to $9,092 in total. However, the trip was cancelled due to travel restrictions resulting from the global pandemic.

Parsons and Dobb instituted proceedings in the tribunal, which ruled Kiss was to pay her clients a full refund in November last year.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) provided Kiss with funding for an initial appeal and the support of consumer law expert and former Australian Competition & Consumer Commission CEO Hank Spiers to assist with the written submissions for the second appeal.

Citing another similar recent appeal panel decision, the panel highlighted that because the booking terms and conditions made it clear that Kiss was acting as an agent only, her clients could not claim the refund from her.

The appeals panel that the money Parsons and Dobb paid for their booking was received by Kiss only as an agent for the travel providers and that Kiss had only acted to facilitate the reservations.

On this basis, the panel found that Kiss was not liable to meet any loss her clients faced.

“Without AFTA’s support and Hank’s considerable assistance and expertise, I wouldn’t have been able to get through this,” Kiss said.

“I understand that consumers get frustrated and want their money back but it’s not the travel agent sitting on the money that is the problem.

“I felt I had to keep appealing given the principle of the matter and the flow-on ramifications for my agency and every other agency if we didn’t get a fair and reasonable outcome.”

According to AFTA chair Tom Manwaring, the appeal highlighted several key recommendations for members.

“Make sure you get and keep a record of acceptance of your terms and conditions before payments are received,” he said.

“Make sure that your T&Cs include 1) that rules and restrictions apply; 2) that you as an agent are not liable for any loss or damage suffered in connection with the non-delivery of a travel product; or 3) that you are not liable for any breach of obligations by any third party travel provider.”

Manwaring said that if an agent finds themselves in the unfortunate position of facing a tribunal hearing, they could now cite Kiss v Parsons if appropriate.

“While tribunal decisions aren’t binding on the courts, this is an important outcome and we are very grateful to Wendy for her resilience, persistence and tenacity,” he said.


Featured image source: iStock/101cats

Latest News

  • Aviation
  • News

UPDATE: Crash compensation unlikely, says head of digital disruption payment system

Southern Cross Travel Insurance says it will be covering claimable losses caused by the Crowdstrike global network outage event, despite its own operations not being affected. “We will be covering claimable losses caused by this event, provided all other conditions and criteria for cover are met (and subject to any limits, sub-limits and/or any exclusions […]

  • Food & Beverage

Exciting culinary experiences across Asia

Here is a look at some exciting experiences across Asia to enhance traveller vacations in iconic cities across the continent. The Mai Restaurant at Meliá Chiang Mai Located on the 21st floor of the iconic hotel, the Mai Restaurant has launched a Thai-inspired afternoon tea for two that pays tribute to the Baan Tawai Wood […]

  • Regional
  • Tour Operators

On Foot Holidays launches Ligurian Hills hiking tour promotion

Australians can explore Italy’s Ligurian Hills on foot on a self-guided, inn-to-inn hike with Onn Foot Holidays new promotional rates. Liguria is a coastal region in north-western Italy near the French border, known for its mountains, rolling hills and seaside ports. On Foot Holidays’ seven-night holiday begins with two days of walking through vineyards and […]

  • Products

Mandarin Oriental takes a dive into swimwear with $360 board shorts

If you were inspired by The Inspired Unemployed’s Liam Moore limited-edition pair of Budgy Smugglers but want a bit more coverage, then here’s your chance. The Orlebar Brown brand has introduced an original design of the Bulldog swim short for Mandarin Oriental hotels – yours for a snip at US$242.25 (AU$360). They have been “designed […]

  • Health & Wellness
  • Luxury

Trisara showcases sustainable dining via wellspring program

Phuket-based resort Trisara is transporting guests from resort to farm to table then back again courtesy of a new limited-time program, Wellspring. The package is a collaboration with Tri Vananda, a US$182 million (AU $270 million) wellness community in northern Phuket, conceived by Montara Hospitality Group, the owners of Trisara. In addition to entitling guests […]

  • Aviation

Emirates SkyCargo expands fleet with five Boeing 777 freighters

Emirates SkyCargo announced an investment of US$1 billion (AU$1.484b) to expand its fleet with an order of five new Boeing 777 freighters. The investment follows a strong performance in the first quarter of the 2024/25 financial year. Emirates SkyCargo expects the new freighters to increase its capacity by 30 per cent. The increase enables the […]

  • Events
  • Tour Operators

ITE HCMC 2024 focuses on sustainable tourism for creating a future

The 18th annual International Travel Expo Ho Chi Minh City (ITE HCMC) will take place from 5 to 7 September at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center. Under the theme “Responsible Travel, Creating Future”, the expo will highlight its dedication to promoting sustainable tourism practices and showcasing innovative tourism products and services to meet rigorous […]