Hotel not refunding for COVID-19 affected travel. Should I chargeback?
March 25, 2020 7:57 AM   Subscribe

So I had travel plans to go to Eurovision this year - which meant booking an airplane ticket and 7 days of hotels well in advance at high prices. COVID-19 has affected those plans, but the hotel I booked with is refusing to refund, saying it is their policy not to refund even in the case of force majeure, and they aren't even allowing me to rebook. Personally, I find this to be an incredibly distasteful response. Under these circumstances, should I initiate a chargeback?
posted by LSK to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It can't hurt to try.
posted by juniperesque at 8:11 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Yes, because they won't let you re-book.
posted by JawnBigboote at 8:18 AM on March 25 [9 favorites]

I was in a similar situation and a chargeback worked for me.
posted by zdravo at 8:19 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

Charge backs are for fraud. This isn't fraud.

It would be nice of them to refund you under the circumstances but if you agreed to the policy when you booked, I'm not sure why you think you're entitled to a refund. This is why travel insurance exists and paying extra for refundable bookings.

It sucks and you should name and shame them on social media. But they're also a business and its a really shitty time to be in the hotel business.
posted by missmagenta at 8:28 AM on March 25 [12 favorites]

If you purchased on a credit card then depending on the territory you're in your card provider might be jointly liable for the delivery of the thing you bought. So I'd complain to them in the first instance.

A chargeback is for fraud. At least in my industry we get a fine if someone does a chargeback on us - in addition to losing the money we billed.

If you booked a hotel on a "non-refundable" rate (a lot of discount rates are) and they're not refunding you then I don't think they're in the wrong yet, at least legally. I don't like it and think its bad practice. But not really fraud.

If the local government has only stopped hotels and travel from happening on a rolling basis then the hotel may be honestly hoping to be open and trading when you're booking comes around. If they aren't open then, or if the government announces in advance that they will be, then I'd expect you to be refunded when that time came.
posted by samworm at 8:40 AM on March 25

So this really sucks and I may be in this situation in August if this is still happening in the US (which it seems more and more likely.)

I'm on the fence though. The terms probably said no rebooking, no refunds. Then this really improbable thing happened which prevented you from going. So of course you want to transfer the risk to the hotel because you didn't predict this. But neither did they.

In favor of paying: This is like the one time it's not like they have a chance to rebook the room and double their profit. They probably have it worse than you. In the (unlikely) event they are trying to pay rank and file employees it'll be impossible if their income dries up.

In favor of not paying: If they are going to get a government bailout to stay open at some point will they give you your money back? And if they are literally going to be shut down and can't fulfill their end of the contract then by just business logic they need to refund you.
posted by mark k at 8:40 AM on March 25

As someone mentioned above the entire industry of travel insurance exists to help people mitigate the risk you took. It would be nice if the hotel could bend the rules for you here but I suspect they’re probably barely covering payroll as it is.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:53 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

Oh, you might take a close look at your credit card. For a while there a common perk was automatic travel insurance on flights and hotels. There’s a slim chance you may be covered.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:59 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

The answer to this question is almost certainly governed by local law either in your own country or country where Eurovision is being held. You need to consult whatever the consumer protection agency there is called.
posted by praemunire at 9:08 AM on March 25

Is the hotel in a country which has shut down non essential business? Ie, are they even available to offer the room to you even if you hadn’t canceled?
posted by corb at 9:12 AM on March 25

Is the hotel in a country which has shut down non essential business? Ie, are they even available to offer the room to you even if you hadn’t canceled?

Well... the Netherlands has a travel ban going on for people who aren't EU citizens, so I couldn't use the hotel even if I wanted to.
posted by LSK at 12:44 PM on March 25

You should absolutely charge back. They cannot deliver the room to you.
posted by sweltering at 7:19 AM on March 27

IANAL etc...
My understanding of controlling US law: "Force majeure" contract clauses aren't a licence for unjust enrichment.
They can only retain documented costs associated with the cancellation and retain no profit. You might want to point out to them that documenting and certifying those costs would likely cost far more than any refunded amount.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 8:19 AM on March 29

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