My ongoing refund saga with Trafalgar

The travel and leisure industry has been walloped the last several months with no clear end in sight. People are understandably reluctant to travel. I personally have no plans to fly internationally until I feel safe, and since my standard for that is pretty high, it may be a while.

For many of us who have cancelled travel plans this year, being offered a time-limited future travel credit is not ideal since it’s difficult to estimate when we’ll return to a level of acceptable low risk.

In a previous post, I detailed how I was able to get approved for a cash refund from Trafalgar for a package vacation that was scheduled to depart in September. I felt fortunate that I qualified for a refund without much hassle, as many travelers were not so lucky and were offered only travel credits.

Problem is, it’s been over a month since I got my refund approval, and I still haven’t actually received the funds back on my credit card. Trafalgar told me that it would be “within 90 days” which later turned into “a minimum of 90 days” to get my refund, and initially I didn’t balk at this since other companies told me the same thing (Expedia & United specifically), and both refunds took place within one week. After 3 and a half weeks passed with no money received from Trafalgar and reading several reports on Facebook of others who had refunds approved way back in March but still no return of funds 3 months later, I decided to go a different route.

My concern – and this is only speculation on my part – is that Trafalgar is having serious cash flow problems, is teetering on going out of business, and has no intention of ever returning my money. Regardless of what the actual problem is, this is not how a financially sound business behaves, especially to its loyal repeat customers.

So this is what I did:

  • I called my credit card company and filed a chargeback dispute. Having a company like Visa or Mastercard go to bat for me is going to be a lot more effective than me fighting this as an individual. Since I have a refund invoice dated a month ago, I don’t see any obvious reason why I wouldn’t have a solid case. My refund was approved, so that part isn’t in question; Trafalgar never did the next step in giving my money back.
  • I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. I’ve done this once before, and it is actually a very effective way of encouraging a company to get its act together. My complaint specifically addresses regulation 12 CFR 1026.12(e) which requires merchants based in the United States to issue a refund within 7 business days from accepting the return (you can read the legal wording here). In my case, it’s been well over a month. So now I have both the credit card company and the United States federal government involved.

This didn’t apply to my situation, but if your tour was cancelled by Trafalgar and they are denying you a refund due to COVID, I suggest you review the original Terms and Conditions emailed to you when you first booked your tour. I looked at mine from late 2019 when I made my deposit, and the Cancellation section is very different compared to the revised Terms and Conditions that were issued in late March 2020. Trafalgar is applying its new contract retroactively to older bookings, which I’m pretty sure is not legal. If this applies to you, then consider filing your own complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and detail the contract changes that they made without your approval. The FTC complaint website can be found at this link.

Now that I have the ball rolling, it’s a waiting game. I feel much better about things since filing the credit card dispute, and I hope it won’t be too long before I’m able to retrieve the cash I should have gotten several weeks ago. I’ll keep everyone updated.

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