The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) sympathizes with the initiative of the Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR), which is the trade association of the travel industry, to develop so-called ‘corona vouchers.’ Starting today, ANVR-affiliated travel agents will issue these vouchers to consumers who have booked and paid for package deals, but who cannot travel due to the current situation. These consumers are issued vouchers that are worth the amount of their trips. Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, comments: “We are in the middle of an extraordinary situation with negative effects on consumers and businesses in the travel industry. Given the current situation, we stand behind this initiative.”
These vouchers will be covered against the tour operator’s bankruptcy by the warranty scheme of SGR, one of the travel guarantee funds in the Netherlands, for one year starting from the date of issue. ACM, as the consumer authority in the Netherlands, has also reviewed the conditions that have been attached to these vouchers. In that review, the basic principle was to strike a balance between the rights of consumers and the survival of tour operators.
For example, consumers can also redeem these vouchers for trips that start on a date later than said one-year period. That new trip will be covered by the SGR warranty as usual. If the consumer decides not to take advantage of the voucher, the tour operator that has issued the voucher will be required to refund the full amount before the deadline of the SGR-coverage period of one year starting from the date of issue, but not sooner than six months after the date of issue. The tour operator may deviate from this rule if advantageous for the consumer. This means that their right to refunds remains intact, albeit at a later point in time. It has also been agreed that tour operators will not charge any administrative fees for the vouchers or the refunds. For more information about this scheme, please visit ANVR’s website (in Dutch).
ACM will keep a close watch on the practical implementation of this scheme, for example, by monitoring the indications submitted to ACM’s consumer information portal, ACM ConsuWijzer. ACM will not hesitate to take action if the rights of consumers are not properly respected.