TICO has received enquiries from both consumers and registrants regarding the Coronavirus and the Government of Canada’s travel advisory for the province of Hubei in China, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou.
Registrants are asking what their responsibilities are under the Travel Industry Act, 2002 (the Act) and Ontario Regulation 26/05 (the Regulation).
Conditions that may impact a consumer’s decision to purchase travel services
Registrants are required to warn customers of the reports of Coronavirus. Prior to reserving travel services for a customer, a travel agent shall bring to the customer’s attention any conditions that the travel agent has reason to believe may affect the customer’s decision to make the purchase.
This would include any safety concerns relating to the travel destination at the time of booking, regardless of whether the government has issued a travel advisory for that destination.
Relevant section of the Regulation: 36(a)
Advising customers of changing conditions
Travel agents may also have a continuing obligation to inform customers of a deteriorating situation in the travel destination after the travel services have been reserved.
After booking, if there is a change to any matter that is referred to in a representation (e.g., an advertisement or brochure) that, if known, might have affected the customer’s decision to purchase, the registrant shall promptly advise the customer of the change.
Relevant section of the Regulation: 37
Terms and conditions
Consumers who have bookings to the affected destinations are subject to the terms and conditions of the booking, which may include possible penalties for changes and cancellations.
Relevant section of the Regulation: 36
There is no provision in the Act or the Regulation that requires a registrant to provide a refund or offer alternate travel services because a government advisory has been issued.
While some suppliers may choose to offer a goodwill gesture to their customers, registrants should consider all their contractual and legal obligations in determining how to address the situation.
Registrants’ responsibilities – accommodations
Registrants may be responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that the accommodations sold to customers are in the same condition as described by the registrant at the time of sale, when the time comes for the customer to use those travel services.
If the accommodations are not in such condition, the registrant must promptly notify the travel agent or customer, and must offer the customer a choice of a full and immediate refund or comparable alternate services acceptable to the customer.
What if the accommodations are part of a package?
If the accommodations are sold as part of a package that includes transportation to a destination, the refund or comparable alternative services must apply to the entire package. If the accommodations were sold separately, the requirement is to offer a refund or comparable alternative services for the accommodations.
Relevant sections of the Regulation: 37 and 39
Registrants’ responsibilities – flights and other transportation
Registrants have an obligation to offer customers a full immediate refund or comparable alternate services if the transportation they have purchased is delayed or advanced by more than 24 hours.
However, this rule does not apply if the delay or advancement is due to mechanical problems with a vehicle, ship or aircraft, safety considerations, weather conditions, a strike or lock-out or a force majeure (such as a natural disaster). In these situations, a refund or comparable alternative services do not need to be offered. Customers would be subject to the terms and conditions of the booking.
Relevant section of the Regulation: 40
Any questions can be directed to TICO’s compliance team at email@example.com or 1-888-451-TICO (8426).
Registrar, Travel Industry Act, 2002