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Coronadvice 5 - Does a travel company have to refund the cancellation fee after cancelling the trip?

17/03/2020

How long will the restrictions on Czech inbound and outbound travel last? Months? Years? Do we have 40 years of limited freedom? At this time, we can only speculate. What are the implications for the planned tours?


In Coronadvice 2, we explained how the current situation in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in the world cannot be interpreted as requiring the cancellation of all future tours, as well as the customer's right of withdrawal without the obligation to pay cancellation fees. In Coronadvice 3, we further explained that an agreement to move the tour to another future date may be an ideal solution to conflicting situations.


Nobody wants it, but what if in May, June, or even later, other tours cannot be realized due to objective reasons? In such a case, the travel company will be required to cancel and refund the customers. But what about the customers who were already worried in March, and preferred to withdraw from the contract and the travel agency collected a cancellation fee from them, should the travel agency refund this sum of money back to customers?

The provisions of the Civil Code on travel package contracts do not specifically address this situation. However, the answer can be found in the legislation on unjust enrichment. Unjustified enrichment is also known as the unlawful use of foreign value, which was referred to in the Old Civil Code as property gains obtained from dishonest sources. An unfair source, or unlawful use, also means gaining the benefit of speculation or activity which, while not criminal, is contrary to good morals. We believe that telling a customer that they are afraid of prematurely, withdrawing a cancellation, and then keeping it, even if the trip is cancelled, is not moral. Therefore, when cancelling the trip in the future, the travel agencies should refund the money charged as the cancellation fee from the customers.


At the same time, however, we believe that the coronavirus situation is different from the usual situations where the customer withdraws from the tour for whatever reason, and the package tour eventually does not take place. In such situations, the travel agency does not have to deal with earlier cancellations.