Refunds During COVID-19
The pandemic has impacted everything from our plans to our pocketbooks.
With cases and hospitalizations on the rise, we exam what happens when activities have to be canceled. Can you get your money back? Let’s say your kid’s club sports team canceled the season after only one game. Or you are recovering from Covid-19 and can’t travel or can no longer use that season pass to the local zoo. What can you do?
First, review your paperwork and then start with a call to the business that took your money and kindly ask for a refund. Be ready to cite any useful language found in your paperwork. If a refund is not available, find out what they are willing and able to do. Sadly, a response like this is heard all too often: "Our refund policy has always been that you're signing up and things are out of our control; unfortunately, we can't help."
Second, if you paid with a credit card, contact your credit card company. Depending on the circumstances, the credit card company will credit the cost back to you and deal with the seller directly.
Third, if you don’t have a resolution, consider contacting the seller by way of social media. No company likes to look heartless over social media and the press might work to your advantage in getting a resolution.
Fourth, if you still do not have a resolution, start the complaint process. Every state attorney general’s office has a consumer protection division that accepts complaints and seeks to help consumers resolve disputes with sellers. The Federal Trade Commission or FTC likewise accepts complaints and at times is able to investigate your situation. Also, don’t overlook the Better Business Bureau – it is still able to assist consumers in resolving complaints with businesses that have reputational concerns.
Finally, you can bring a claim in small claims court without a lawyer or, depending on the subject matter, the seller may have to make arbitration available. For pricier items – such as wedding venues – contacting an experienced consumer protection lawyer is advisable.
We've been getting calls from people who have prepaid for honeymoons and vacations that they take. Some advice going forward includes:
1. Really pay attention to the small print -- under what circumstances can you get a refund.
2. Request a refund in writing so you have a record of it.
3. Pay with a credit card. If goods aren't provided, under certain circumstances you have a right under your credit card agreement to a refund
Here’s to safe and smart purchases. And, may God bless you in these uncertain times!