Following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ban on non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors due to the spread of coronavirus, many event-goers and businesses have been left high and dry as they wonder what comes next.
In an effort to shed more light on the situation, the ACCC has issued official advice for the rights and obligations of businesses and consumers when it comes to cancelled events due to Covid-19.
Rod Sims, Chair of the ACCC, has said that throughout the difficult period they will be encouraging businesses to treat consumers fairly and compassionately as well as asking customers to exercise patience and respect when dealing with service staff.
“We welcome the decisions by many businesses who are already offering refunds to all ticket holders, and expect other event and travel businesses to also offer remedies to all affected consumers when events or travel services are cancelled,” he said.
Those who have bought tickets to an event that has now been cancelled due to general concerns surrounding the virus are expected to receive a refund or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher in most circumstances.
However, if the event is cancelled due to the new government restrictions on the number of people gathered in one area – your rights under the consumer guarantees will be impacted. In this case, you may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of the ticket however it’s always best to contact the business directly as the outcome can differ between event organisers.
Those who planned on travelling to an event that is now cancelled should approach their travel or accommodation provider directly to see if they are prepared to offer a replacement service, refund or voucher.
Ticket holders are also advised to check whether they are covered under any travel insurance policies as they may be entitled to compensation for these expenses under the Australian Consumer Law, however it will depend on specific circumstances. For instance, the chances of getting a refund on travel is unlikely if the event was cancelled due to government restrictions.
One of the key areas where businesses want information is around government restrictions around weddings and funerals. These restrictions mean weddings and funerals are likely to be cancelled, so will customers be entitled to a refund on pre-booked services?
“As a business, if you are unable to provide goods or services during this time, you have the opportunity to work with your customers to find a mutually agreeable alternative arrangement,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said. “This could include providing a particular refund, a credit note or voucher, or rescheduling to supply the services at a later date where this is possible.”
Although an increasing number of events are being cancelled due to concerns and government restrictions, some remain in action depending on the situation. Those who have tickets for events that are still running but no longer wish to attend could be entitled to a refund in certain circumstances.
If you no longer want to go to the event due to Covid-19 fears, this could be seen as a ‘change of mind’ and could be used as a loophole for organisers to refuse a refund, however the ACCC are asking that businesses treat consumers fairly by offering a refund as a goodwill gesture where appropriate.
Meanwhile, those with health conditions that puts them at higher risk for contracting the virus, particularly in highly populated areas, should contact the event organiser as they will have a better chance of receiving a full refund or a voucher for a later date.