The coronavirus pandemic represents a watershed for the global economy. Untold numbers of people carry the COVID-19 virus. The number of victims who succumbed to the disease grows. Yet, at the same time, criminals are busy thinking up coronavirus scams to steal your money. Legitimate businesses, especially in the travel and transportation sectors, refuse to refund money. Coronavirus scams and payment refunds are a major concern for consumers.
By the beginning of May 2020, American consumers had already lost more than $23 million to coronavirus scams. To address the problem, the Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has shut down over 11,000 scam websites since the outbreak of the pandemic. For its part, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) halted the trading of shares in approximately 30 companies it suspected of making unproven claims regarding the effectiveness of their products in fighting the disease.
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) handled approximately 542,300 complaints in 2020, which represented almost a 54% increase over the 2019 total. And the Federal Trade Commission estimated that American consumers had lost $1 billion due to coronavirus scams in 2020 as a result.
In Ireland, fraud reports shot up 26% due to online ‘pandemic profiteering.’ Down Under, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned that coronavirus scammers are ‘falsely selling coronavirus-related products online, and using fake emails or text messages to try and obtain personal data.’
Travel Refunds: Rules and Reality
Needless to say, lockdowns and quarantines affect billions of people. Malls and stores around the globe closed indefinitely. Unemployment skyrocketed. Airlines either suspended operations or cancelled flights until further notice.
Yes, the U.S. Department of Transportation told airlines that ‘passengers should be refunded promptly when their scheduled flights are cancelled or significantly delayed.’ Meanwhile, across the pond, European Union (EU) regulation 261 requires carriers to reimburse ticket holders if the flight originated, passed through or terminated within the EU. ‘In case of cancellations,’ the EU Commissioner for Transport stated bluntly, ‘the transport provider must reimburse or re-route the passengers.’
While those are the rules, here’s the reality. The financial situation of the travel industry in the wake of the pandemic is weak. For that reason, some airlines attempt to hand out vouchers in order to avoid a cash refund. But what happens if you don’t want or need a voucher?
Of course, the longer lockdowns and quarantines continue, the types of refunds consumers seek continue to grow. Take, for example, families with children who paid for summer camps in advance. That is actually a common practice, since, in return, the parents benefit from early-bird discounts. But due to the situation not enough parents registered their children. The camps will not have the critical mass of campers they require to hire staff. And besides, lockdowns and social distancing regulations combine to make summer camp impossible.
Then there are university students (or their parents) who pre-paid for summer courses. Or an upcoming semester or fees for various services that are no longer available. Unfortunately, the university cannot hold classes due to the need to maintain social distancing. Let alone plan for an upcoming semester whose future is now in doubt. Class action lawsuits demanding tuition refunds were filed in the U.S. against Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Drexel, Michigan State, Perdue, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Colorado, and Vanderbilt.
Another example comes from the world of professional sports. Stadiums and arenas stand empty. Fans who purchased season tickets to games could not use them because there was no sports season.
If, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an airline, travel agency, hotel, cruise line, summer camp, college or university did not refund you what you were due, or if you are the victim of a coronavirus-related scam, MyChargeBack may be able to help. So, contact us for a free initial consultation to determine if your case meets the conditions required to process your dispute.