The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday reminded travelers that if travel agencies make last-minute changes to group tour itineraries, the agency is liable to pay two times the amount of the price difference.
The consumer rights watchdog said that this month was a peak season for travel because of the Lunar New Year, but many travelers remain unaware of their rights when it comes to unanticipated travel plan changes.
Foundation deputy secretary-general Hsu Tse-yu (徐則鈺) said the foundation has received complaints from travelers that their travel agency had made changes one day prior to their departure and even on the day of the departure. These included downgrading hotel stays, downgrading cruises, canceling plans to visit certain tourist attractions and meals.
Hsu said travel agencies that make changes to the itinerary that effectively change the nature of the trip should compensate -travelers two times the amount of the price difference of the changes.
However, if travelers are forced to cancel trips because of travel warnings, such as those issued recently when demonstrations against the Egyptian government erupted, then the travel agency should not be held responsible for making last-minute changes, but should still refund the travelers for expenditures that did not take place as a result of said changes.
This is based on Clause 28 of the Standardized Contract for Overseas Tours (國外旅遊定型化契約書範本), which stipulates that a contract between agents and travelers may be rescinded because of force majeure — a -reason for which neither party can reasonably be held responsible, the foundation said.
The same clause states that travel agents may first deduct any expenditure that was made on behalf of travelers or that was necessarily incurred in the execution of the contract.
The foundation also reminded travelers that when they pay a deposit to a travel agency to reserve a place on a tour, but later decide to cancel, they are still entitled to a partial refund depending on the number of days in advance they canceled. Travel agencies are not permitted to describe the deposit as non-refundable in the contract, the foundation said.