Fri, April 1, 2022 10:05 a.m.
Says New Yorkers should know their rights and follow basic tips for the best deals and to avoid travel scams
Submitted by the New York State Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection reminds New Yorkers of their rights when planning spring and summer trips. Travel disputes remain one of the main complaints handled by DCP. In 2021, DCP received hundreds of complaints from consumers who had to cancel or postpone their travel plans due to COVID-19. As restrictions due to COVID-19 lift and more New Yorkers travel again, consumers need to be informed of their rights, shop smartly to protect their hard-earned money, and remain vigilant to protect against scams.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major travel disruptions, but has also taught consumers valuable lessons about how to travel responsibly,” said Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, who oversees the DCP. “By following this advice, New Yorkers will be better prepared to navigate the market and spend responsibly as they plan their long-awaited travel this spring and summer.”
Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris said, “As New Yorkers resume their travels, they are strongly encouraged to carefully read all travel insurance policies and related documents if they are considering purchasing a travel insurance policy. travel insurance, in order to fully understand what is covered in the event. travel plans go wrong.
Smart shopping for traveling
There are some basic travel tips consumers should know when booking travel:
√ Do your research. Consumers should always weigh the factors of a trip before purchasing, including price, location, activity availability, and cancellation policies. Also check if the location has any COVID-19 restrictions in place, such as testing or vaccination status, before booking the trip.
√ Get all confirmations in writing. To guard against scams via changes to agreements, consumers should always get confirmation of plans in writing, whether booking online, over the phone, or in person. Retailers are required to disclose terms and conditions to consumers – always receive a copy of the agreement and keep it for reference.
√ Beware of “all-inclusive” or too-good-to-be-true offers. All-inclusive deals sound good, but may have hidden fees in their terms and conditions. Consumers may not even be aware of these charges until check-out, when their bill is higher than advertised. Sometimes these offers are accompanied by an agreement to become a member or participate in a presentation. Always inquire about mandatory charges that may not appear in the advertised price, such as resort fees and taxes. Read the fine print when you take advantage of an “all-inclusive” offer.
√ Try to pay with a credit card, if possible. Credit cards often offer more protection than paying by cash, check or debit card. Some credit card companies also offer benefits like travel insurance or concierge service during the trip, and may offer additional protections if the trip is canceled. Ask your credit card company about the conditions for reimbursement of travel expenses.
√ Review your travel arrangements. Did you know that you have the possibility to cancel a travel contract? The New York State Truth in Travel Act protects consumers against fraud, misleading advertising, misrepresentation and other abuses. Travel agents and promoters must provide consumers with written information of all travel service terms within five days of purchase or agreement. Consumers should fully review the terms of the agreements upon receipt and ensure that they match what they purchased. Consumers have until midnight on the third business day following receipt of the agreement to cancel. Consumers can also cancel at any time during the five-day period prior to receiving the information.
√ Use reputable travel/tourism agencies. Consumers should do thorough research before choosing an agent or company to work with. Keep track of arrangements and contracts, and review terms and conditions, especially cancellation and refund policies. Reservations often require a deposit which may not be refundable. If the trip is cancelled, the deposit may only be applied to a future trip or be lost entirely. Consumers should ensure they understand the policy before making a deposit.
√ Consider travel insurance and ask yourself if you need a “Cancel for Any Reason” policy. Travel insurance can offer consumers emergency relief before or during their trip, as coverage ranges from incidents of lost baggage to missed connections to potential medical emergencies. However, most standard travel insurance policies do not cover trip interruption or cancellation due to COVID-19, as these standard policies generally exclude coverage for an epidemic, pandemic or disaster. a similar public health event. Some travel insurance plans offer “Cancel For Any Reason” cover at an additional cost, which is often considerably higher than standard travel insurance and normally only allows reimbursement of up to 75% of expenses of the traveler if the trip is cancelled. Before purchasing a plan, review the policy terms and ask your insurer what coverage may be excluded.
When all or part of a trip is cancelled, the cancellation policy and a consumer’s right to a refund vary depending on the laws that govern the company’s industry, who initiates the cancellation, when cancellation is done and the company’s own policy.
√ According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines may offer refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fees charged, for canceled or significantly delayed flights, even when flight disruptions are beyond their control. If an airline fails to do so, consumers can report it to the US Department of Transportation. If consumers cancel a reservation for any reason, consumers will be subject to the refund policy agreed upon at the time of purchase, which may be no refund at all.
√ With cruise lines, refund options may vary. The cruise ticket contract outlines the company’s cancellation policies and rights. For example, you may be offered a refund, a credit or a voucher for a future cruise. If opting for a credit or voucher, make sure the expiration date is far enough away for it to be used. Learn more about consumer rights and remedies that may be available from the Federal Maritime Commission.
√ Cancellation policies for hotels, motels, and online lodging marketplaces can vary widely, even within the same company depending on season, room type, or length of stay. Some may offer the choice of a refundable or non-refundable rate when booking. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy before making a reservation.
If a consumer is having difficulty obtaining a refund due for all or part of a canceled trip, they are encouraged to file a complaint with DCP.
Signs of a travel scam
The Federal Trade Commission warns of common travel scams. Here are some signs of a scam when booking a trip:
√ You have “earned” a free vacation. Scammers will sometimes lure consumers with a free trip, but then disclose fees or deposits to access it. A price should not include expenses and is likely a scam.
√ Your travel details are vague. Consumers may be offered a stay at a five-star hotel or on a luxury cruise line, but few details about the trip are presented. Always confirm and revise the company name and location of travel details.
√ You have a limited time to accept the offer. Scammers often pressure consumers to make quick decisions about an offer, making it likely that the consumer won’t have time to investigate the offer. Never feel pressured to agree to terms that you haven’t reviewed for yourself.
√ You have to pay in an uncommon way. Cryptocurrency, bank transfers, and gift cards are hard to trace and perfect for scammers looking to take advantage of consumers, who won’t be able to recoup their losses if they pay this way. If a travel agency insists you pay in one of these ways, decline the offer and report the company.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection offers voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unable to find a resolution on their own. The Consumer Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed anytime at www.dos .ny.gov/consumerprotection.
Travel insurance is regulated by the Department of Financial Services. Consumers with complaints regarding travel insurance policy or “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage issued in New York or by New York companies should contact DFS at www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint or through the DFS hotline at 800-342-3736, 212-480-6400, or 518-474-6600 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
For more consumer protection advice, the DCP is available on social media on Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.