Consumer New Zealand is demanding that Airbnb and Bachcare be brought to justice for charging people who cancel bookings.
The Consumer Advocacy Group has filed a complaint with the Trade Commission, saying companies could violate fair trade law.
Chief executive Jonon Duffy said the site’s policy results in some customers having hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
He said it was “obviously unfair” that consumers who could not travel due to the Covid-19 lock were barred from a full refund.
“We’ve gotten a lot of complaints from consumers who were busy with the second lock … which closed Auckland,” Duffy told Morning report
“They booked accommodation in other parts of the country, they could not travel there due to restrictions imposed by the government, but I think they were charged extortionate fees for canceling reservations with accommodation providers.”
“In some cases, with Airbnb for example, 100% of the accommodation was charged by the person who canceled it. This is in circumstances where there is enough time for the accommodation provider to allow it again. [the property]. “Thus, in many of those cases, the accommodation provider may be able to effectively charge twice for that property, punishing that first consumer for failing to stay there.”
Duffy said the Airbnb host chooses which cancellation policy to apply – and that could include deducting 100% of the cancellation fee less than 60 days in advance. Conversely, if an Airbnb host wanted to cancel a reservation, the maximum Airbnb could charge them was $ 145.
Duffy said in the first blockade, which was nationwide, Airbnb was “really good” and applied a policy of returning consumers, but appeared to return to normal working conditions for regional blockades.
“We think they can show a little discretion here and use the policy they used in the first lock.”
Butcher’s policy says the client will lose all accommodation and service fees, even if he cancels 60 days before the start of their stay, he said.
Consumer NZ asked both companies if they had reviewed their compliance requirements with the law – which prohibits unfair terms in consumer contracts – but received unsatisfactory answers, Duffy said.
In its appeal, Consumer NZ asked the Trade Commission to request a court statement that the conditions for waiver were unfair. Any term deemed unfair by the court may not be enforced by the trader.
“The law on fair trade has a section that says that if normal consumer contracts are so balanced in favor of one party to the other that they become unfair, the Trade Commission can apply to the courts to overturn those provisions.
“We believe that in these cases, especially given the interest that hangs over us with the potential for further conclusions, the Trade Commission should act and take Airbnb to court over these agreements.”
One client, Marilyn, who lost more than $ 1,000 when the pandemic stopped her journey, is pleased that the complaint has been filed.
Marilyn booked accommodation with Airbnb in Canada in August, but canceled the $ 1,200 reservation when New Zealand went into blockade in March.
She was told she had not been allowed a refund, and said it was months of negotiations before Airbnb agreed to give her only $ 66. Marilyn described the process as a nightmare.
Consumer NZ advises consumers who believe they have been charged an unfair cancellation fee to lodge a complaint with the Trade Commission.