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COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know it. The threat of the illness itself and the state-ordered lock-downs that resulted have grounded flights, postponed concerts and professional sports matches, closed gyms and amusement parks, and so much more.
And in many cases, customers have been more than understanding as the events, trips, and services they had been looking forward to disappeared off their calendars. There is, however, one phenomenon that defies understanding and common sense: the refusal of many companies to issue refunds.
It’s no secret that the coronavirus has resulted in economic consequences, as well as health consequences, for countless Americans. You need that money you paid for canceled travel plans and events, memberships to closed facilities, and other unfulfilled purchases now more than ever before.
Yet many of these companies are greedily withholding your money. They didn’t deliver on the promised service or experience. Now, instead of giving back what’s rightfully yours, they want to stick you with a voucher that – with lock-downs and the threat of coronavirus still looming – is basically worthless.
You don’t have to just accept a COVID-19 refund denial. Consumers have legal rights. You may be entitled to an immediate full refund – not an unwanted voucher. But, if the company has denied your refund request or is giving you the runaround with changing refund policies, it may take a lawsuit to get what you deserve.
Whether or not companies must give refunds or other forms of recompense can be a complicated legal matter. But what’s pretty clear is that you shouldn’t have to pay for something you don’t receive. Learn more about your legal refund rights and how an attorney can help.
You’ve probably heard that lawsuits are expensive. The companies that are profiting by denying refunds hope you will buy into the myth that pursuing a lawsuit isn’t worth it. Find out how you can get no-win, no-fee legal help to pursue a class action lawsuit on behalf of everyone who is being denied a refund.
A lawsuit isn’t your first choice. There are a number of avenues to pursue if you’ve been denied a refund, but if the company refuses to work with you, a lawsuit may be the option that’s best suited to compensating you. Find out how to get a refund for COVID-19 travel cancellations, college fees, event cancellations, membership fees, and more.
This pandemic should have been a time for us to all work together, but instead, it’s bringing out the worst in these selfish companies that are keeping money for services they can’t deliver. You may have the grounds for a COVID-19 refund refusal lawsuit if you were denied a refund of:
Companies rely on you readily accepting their denial of a refund, whether or not they have a legal or contractual leg to stand on when doing so.
They make refund policies complicated and difficult to understand in the hopes that you won’t be able to interpret the legalese well enough to stand up to them. Sometimes, they change those policies without warning – even, as we’re seeing right now, in the midst of a worldwide crisis.
Don’t take “no” as the final answer on your coronavirus-related refund request. You have other options – probably, more options than you realize – and you should absolutely use them at a time like this.
It costs nothing to speak to a COVID-19 refund refusal lawyer about your rights and options. Contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation.
Charging consumers for a product or service they don’t receive is a scam – a form of theft.
It’s absolutely not acceptable, under normal circumstances, for a company to take your money and then fail to ever provide what you purchased. So why would that kind of unethical behavior be in any way acceptable just because a global pandemic has struck?
It’s not. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the numerous companies across diverse industries that are denying refund requests left and right even when the service, event, or access they sold has been cancelled or closed.
As a consumer, if you can’t get what you paid for, then you have the legal right to get your money back. And if the company refuses you a refund, then you have the right to take actions such as filing complaints with the relevant regulating body and to personally seek compensation in a court of law.
Most retailers have some sort of written policy that outlines what consumers can expect when seeking a refund. A refund policy will usually stipulate:
When you purchase merchandise, the refund policy might cover things like returning a product because it is damaged, doesn’t fit, or otherwise doesn’t meet your needs.
The situation is a little different when what you’re purchasing isn’t an item so much as access to a service. You can’t exactly “return” airfare, a semester spent in a college dorm, a concert, or a year of gym access. It’s not unusual, then, for sales of these tickets and passes to have a more strict refund policy.
Ticket sales are often nonrefundable in normal circumstances. You can’t just change your mind and get your money back. But COVID-19 is no normal circumstance.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, these services and events have been canceled. Many flights were grounded. Stay-at-home orders have forced would-be travelers to cancel their hotel bookings. Cruises have been shut down, as have amusement parks and most attractions that draw large crowds. College students spending upwards of $10,000 for a year of on-campus room and board are being sent home. Gyms are closed.
Suddenly, those no-refund policies don’t make a lot of sense anymore. It’s no longer the odd occurrence that an unexpected problem pops up and prevents an individual ticket holder from boarding the plane or entering the theater. The very service itself is no longer available. And that means every person who bought a ticket is now getting nothing in return for their money.
When a refund policy is part of a sales contract, it should be considered generally binding under contract law. That is, if you sign a contract that states that you can receive a refund in a certain situation, you may have the right to sue the company for breach of contract if it later denies that refund.
Suppose that you, like many Americans, had purchased airfare or an event ticket prior to the start of the pandemic. The contract may state that your ticket is nonrefundable. However, that nonrefundable clause likely doesn’t apply when the flight or the event is canceled – only if you are unable to make it to the airport or the event.
In some contracts, companies may stipulate that cancellation of the service or event will be refunded with a voucher or credit instead of a full cash refund. Many of the companies currently facing COVID-19 refund denial lawsuits are using this argument to hold onto consumers’ money, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the right. A coronavirus refund refusal attorney can review your contract to see if the refund policy is enforceable and appropriate under state and local laws.
Among the biggest issues facing consumers are changing refund policies.
Since most retailers are permitted to set their own refund policies, they’re also allowed to change them. But some retailers facing the possibility of having to give back huge sums of money are trying to change the language of their refund policies and apply this new language to existing contracts.
Although a company may include in its contract that it retains the right to make changes to the policy at any time, a change that undermines the intent of the contract may not be enforceable. Just like the company can’t decide to raise the price after you’ve already made the purchase, it would be unfair to unilaterally alter the terms of the existing contract.
If the company that owes you a refund allowed for a full cash refund at the time of your purchase but is now trying to hide behind subsequent changes to its refund policy to avoid having to pay you, it’s time to take the next step.
Many companies know better than to deny customers any form of recompense outright for a service or event that they didn’t deliver on. The majority of refund refusal lawsuits now being filed across the country revolve instead around whether companies can force consumers to accept partial refunds instead of full refunds, or whether they can “pay back” their customers in the form of a credit or voucher.
A refund generally refers to compensation for what you paid that, USA.gov reported, is “normally given in the same form of payment that you used to buy the item.”
You can use this refund however you want to – whether to make another purchase from that company, to purchase from a competitor, or to use for other expenses.
Credit and vouchers are more limited. You can’t pay your rent with an airfare voucher or buy your groceries with credit from an event ticketing company. Often, these credits and vouchers may come with additional restrictions, such as expiration dates, blackout dates, or other rules that can limit your ability to use them as you choose.
With quarantine and social distancing measures still in place in many areas and the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 looming, limited vouchers and credit are all but worthless to many consumers. What good would it do you now to plan another trip or find another show you want to attend – if companies are even accepting bookings currently – when there’s so much uncertainty?
You need money to pay the bills now – not half-hearted assurances that you may be able to use that money for a future outing that you may or may not be interested in or available to attend.
Unfortunately, companies sometimes do charge fees when granting refunds. Some of the different types of fees that you may encounter include:
However, for COVID-19 refunds, you may not have to pay the same fees that would otherwise cut into your refunds. If the event is canceled, then you shouldn’t have to pay these fees – because, once again, the service or access you purchased isn’t being delivered.
Many companies that would usually charge fees related to refunds are doing the right thing by giving back consumers’ money in full. They may call this a fee waiver or travel waiver, or simply promise to refund your full ticket costs and fees (and then make good on that promise).
If the company you’re seeking a refund from is trying to charge you fees that you think are unfair or unreasonable, it’s time to speak to a coronavirus refund denial class action attorney. Remember, you’re not the only ticket holder being unfairly charged. This selfish company is raking in the cash by denying full refunds to you and all of your fellow ticket holders while giving you nothing in return.
Filing a lawsuit isn’t the first approach you should take to get your money back, but it’s an avenue many consumers have needed to pursue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the options you have as a consumer, each with their own pros and cons:
Contact the company to try to reach an amicable resolution.
Your first step should be to try to work things out with the company that owes you a refund. If the company is receptive to fairly refunding its customers, this solution will take up the least of your time and cause you the least frustration.
Some companies have numerous contact options, while others are more difficult to get ahold of. You might try to contact by phone, email, or social media. If you’re having trouble reaching the company through these methods, sending a letter by snail mail may be an option.
Try to be friendly and polite while also being assertive. It never helps your case to be rude to the customer service representative (even if you’re justifiably frustrated), but it’s also important that you stand up for yourself and your legal rights.
Some consumer finance experts suggest that, when a representative from the company is not willing or able to help you, you can try hanging up and calling or chatting again to see if another representative is more helpful. Of course, if you’re getting the same unsatisfactory answer on repeat, it’s not worth your time to keep trying this approach.
What if the company denies your refund request? It’s time to move on to the next option.
File a complaint with the appropriate regulatory authority.
Companies can’t just do whatever they want. If you believe that a company is breaking the law by denying you a refund, you can file an official complaint against the company with regulators. At the federal level, you might file a complaint with one of the following entities:
Your state may also have regulatory authorities who can investigate the situation.
Filing a complaint with regulators ensures that the matter will be looked into by a government entity, so that wrongdoing by the company will be punished. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will benefit. You may get a refund this way, but the primary consequence of this course of action is so that regulatory action may be taken if warranted.
Dispute the charge with your credit card company.
One possible way to seek a refund, if you paid for the purchase with a credit card, is to dispute the charge. However, there are some serious pitfalls with this approach, so it’s not an action you should take lightly. There are some compelling reasons why some consumer experts refer to disputing the charge as “the nuclear option.”
When you dispute the charge, you put your credit card company in the position of deciding whether or not you should have to pay. It’s an all-or-nothing decision, as opposed to a lawsuit where a COVID-19 refund refusal lawyer can negotiate a settlement for you.
If the credit card company finds in favor of the company you’re trying to get a refund from, you still have to pay – and you may even owe interest. Some consumers have even been taken to court for not paying charges that were unsuccessfully disputed.
A successful dispute doesn’t necessarily mean the ordeal is over. Some consumers receive direct bills months later from the company charging them. If you win a credit card dispute but the company billing you doesn’t give up, it could even take you to court or send your unpaid balance to collections. You may or may not end up paying in this circumstance, but it will certainly be a hassle.
Pursue a COVID-19 refund refusal lawsuit.
If you are serious about a refund and not able to amicably resolve the situation with the company directly, hiring a coronavirus denied refund attorney may be the best option available to you.
Unlike a regulatory complaint, a lawsuit’s primary aim is to get you the compensation you are owed. And unlike a credit card chargeback, you don’t have to worry that the company will keep pursuing you. The settlement or jury award your attorney gets for you is the end of the matter.
Here are some other things you should know about pursuing a lawsuit for a coronavirus-related refund:
If you’ve tried to resolve your refund matter and gotten nothing but headaches and hassle out of your efforts, it’s time to bring in a professional.
Perhaps no industry has been hit harder in the refund arena than the travel industry. Cancellations, closures, and stay-at-home orders have all brought non-essential travel to a standstill.
Consumers whose travel plans were disrupted by COVID-19 are now in the precarious position of trying to get refunds from:
A refund denial from any or all of these industries could be the grounds for a lawsuit.
The timing of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States affected two of the biggest travel times: spring break and summer vacation season.
If you’re wondering how to get your money back when you cancel your vacation during coronavirus, the answers depend on the specific industries and companies you’re seeking a refund from. You may find that there are different regulations for different industries and that individual companies are differing wildly on how they handle coronavirus-related travel cancellations.
First the coronavirus outbreak kept you from getting where you wanted to go – and now your airline is keeping you from getting your money back.
What makes this behavior particularly disturbing is the fact that the airline industry already received a multi-billion-dollar bailout under the CARES Act passed by Congress on March 19, 2020. Yet the industry as a whole has not done right by passengers, continuing to hold onto their money even, in some cases, for flights that were canceled.
If the flight is canceled, your airline legally doesn’t have a choice in the matter. It must refund your money – both the ticket price and any fees – according to the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Division of Aviation Consumer Protection.
Carrier obligations to make COVID-19 related flight refunds aren’t new. In fact, this obligation isn’t even specific to COVID-19 cancellations. In an April 2020 enforcement notice, the Department of Transportation referred to this responsibility as a “longstanding obligation” carriers have when they cancel a flight.
This enforcement notice reminded airlines of these regulations. However, the DOT’s notice – as FlyersRights.org, the largest consumer organization in the airline industry, put it – “indicated that it would not pursue enforcement action for past violations of this refund rule.”
Enforcement action by the Department of Transportation may prompt an airline to start complying with the law and deter other airlines from joining in this unacceptable business practice of denying refunds. However, it’s unlikely to benefit you directly.
“That just means that potentially a fine will be assessed against the airline,” said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org. “It does not provide for individual consumer relief. Even though you have a legal right, you may have to take ultimate legal action.”
Under the law, getting a refund for canceled flights should be easy. But that’s not the reality many consumers are facing when they contact their airlines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many would-be passengers are being denied full cash refunds and instead pressured to accept a travel voucher instead.
Some airlines are misleading passengers, saying that they can receive a full cash refund only after their travel vouchers expire – which could be 6, 9, 12, or even 18 months from now. Don’t fall for these tactics. You have the right to a refund immediately if your flight is canceled.
When you speak to a representative of your airline, remind them that the carrier has a legal obligation to give you a cash refund, and not a voucher, for a canceled flight. Showing that you know your legal rights as an airline passenger may prompt a change of mind.
If not, pursuing a COVID-19 airline refund refusal lawsuit is your next step.
“If the airline cancels flight, then you’re entitled to a cash refund. If you cancel your flight, you’re basically at the mercy of the airline,” said FlyersRights.org hotline director Joel Smiler.
In a March 2020 letter to federal legislators, FlyersRights.org urged actions that included “requiring that cash refunds of airfares and ancillary fees should be paid to anyone who cancels flights or whose flight is cancelled by an airline.”
As of April 20, 2020, however, only 2 airlines – Spirit and Allegiant – had announced to legislators that they were refunding flight tickets when customers proactively canceled their flights due to the risk of COVID-19 contagion (as opposed to the airlines canceling the flight), according to MarketWatch. If you booked the flight on Hawaiian Airlines and the carrier subsequently cancels the flight you opted out of, you may be able to get your voucher transferred to a refund – but not if the flight takes place as scheduled.
Did You Know…?
Some of the biggest commercial airlines in the United States charge a $200 cancellation fee for domestic flights, and even higher fees for international flights.
You may be more likely to get a refund if you were actually sick with COVID-19 or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, especially if you can produce a doctor’s note or other form of documentation of your illness. Airline carriers don’t want passengers who know or suspect they may be sick to board their planes.
You may also have an argument for a refund if your state is under a stay-at-home order or an order to avoid non-essential travel at the time of the scheduled flight.
It may be harder to get a refund for canceling your tickets to a flight that proceeded as scheduled than it would be for a flight canceled by the airline. However, if you think you deserve a refund, a free consultation with a COVID-19 refund denial lawyer may help you understand your legal options and get on the right track.
Many airlines are already facing class action lawsuits over failing to grant the refunds owed to consumers, including:
Just how widespread is the problem? The Department of Transportation reported on May 12, 2020, that it had received an “unprecedented volume of complaints,” according to NBC News. The number of consumer complaints about airlines climbed from the 1,500 the Department sees in a typical month to an astonishing 25,000 in April and early May 2020.
Since the increase in public backlash and the genesis of plentiful consumer lawsuits, some of these airlines have since revised their stance on providing refunds. However, consumers who feel they have been unfairly denied a refund may still be entitled to join class action lawsuits against these companies.
Airlines’ refund denials are getting the most attention, but would-be passengers on trains and buses have faced problems retrieving their money, too.
You may have the grounds for a claim if you feel you have been unfairly denied a refund for any of the following forms of travel and transportation:
Some transportation services have chosen to do the right thing, like Amtrak temporarily suspending its strict refund policy, according to the Los Angeles Times. For those that have refused to do so, the initiation of legal action may be only a matter of time.
Plane, train, and automobile refunds only recover the costs of getting to your travel destination. You likely also shelled out a good chunk of change for a place to stay and activities to do. Will hotels, resorts, and other accommodations return your money when you have to cancel due to COVID-19?
Hotel occupancy was at historic lows as of early May 2020, the American Hotel and Lodging Association reported. Many hotels have closed temporarily, and 33,000 small businesses in the hotel industry are at risk for permanent closures – which may make it even harder to get your money back.
If a hotel was closed – canceling your reservation – then you should get your money back, regardless of whether the original booking was refundable or nonrefundable. The accommodations you purchased were not delivered, period.
However, that doesn’t mean getting the refund you deserve will be easy. As with the airlines, you may need to move forward with a lawsuit to get the money you’re owed.
Some hotels are facing COVID-19 refund refusal lawsuits after the would-be guests were the ones to cancel their reservations due to the coronavirus.
Magen David Yeshivah day school, a Jewish school in New York City, recently sued a Miami Beach hotel when the hotel refused to refund the $2.3 million down payment the school had made on a planned 10-night Passover trip for a group of 1,200, the Miami Herald reported.
Refund processes may be even more complicated if you booked a vacation rental or homestay accommodations through a private owner instead of a traditional hotel. An attorney can help you understand your rights and the terms of your contract.
Many amusement parks and attractions have had to close due to government mandates prohibiting large crowds.
These closures were the only responsible way to handle a public health threat as severe as coronavirus, but they left a lot of questions, including questions about refunds.
Much like other areas of the travel industry, some of the companies behind closed attractions are reluctant to issue refunds. Rather than give would-be visitors their money back, companies are trying to force them to accept vouchers for a future visit.
But how valuable are these vouchers and ticket extensions, really?
Many of these parks don’t even know when and at what capacity they will be able to reopen. Will visitors whose lives have been turned upside-down by the coronavirus crisis even be able to still take a vacation? Families that have suffered financially during the economic downturn may need to dip into that vacation savings fund just to pay their bills, and workers who were laid off or furloughed may not be able to take vacation time even after the pandemic has subsided.
In addition to the conflict over whether an amusement park will give refunds or only honor tickets and passes at other times, you may face complications over refunds if you purchased through a travel agency instead of directly from the park.
For example, a travel firm in Australia made headlines for all the wrong reasons once it came out that the firm wanted to charge a family of five a cancellation fee of $1,500 – $300 per person – before refunding their tickets to Disneyland, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Part transportation, part hotel, and part attraction, the cruise industry is suffering considerably from the coronavirus. And by failing to quickly refund consumers’ money, these companies are passing their suffering on to their customers.
Among the cruise lines that have already faced public backlash – and, in some cases, litigation – stemming from their failures to promptly issue refunds are:
In addition to refund-related lawsuits, the cruise industry is also facing numerous lawsuits claiming that cruise lines were negligent in exposing passengers to COVID-19. Without having an attorney on your side, your refund request may go ignored as the cruise company chooses to focus on the more pressing legal battles.
Other cruise ticket holders have received nothing at all. Even cruise lines that hold themselves out as willing to provide refunds are taking their sweet time acting on that promise. Some passengers report waiting weeks for cruise lines like Carnival to process their refund requests, according to Action News Jax.
And just because you got through to a representative and were told a time frame – like 10 to 14 business days – doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, said WKRG News. Even a month later, consumers are still waiting for their promised refunds.
What makes getting a refund for a cruise particularly difficult, even when the cruise line has canceled the trip, is the contractual language that appears in the terms of a cruise ticket. It’s not unusual for this legal jargon to restrict cruise passengers’ rights, including the opportunity to pursue legal action as a class rather than through individual claims, Bloomberg reported.
So, what should you do if you’re one of the numerous consumers still waiting on a COVID-19 cruise refund? It’s important for you to speak to an experienced consumer refund attorney to understand your legal rights and the terms of your contract.
Student tour companies, too, have come under fire for their controversial practice of refusing to offer full cash refunds even when the companies themselves were the ones to cancel the travel plans.
Under its “No Public Health Emergency Cash Refund Clause,” for example, student tour company Education First is holding onto thousands of dollars paid by students and their families for educational trips that never occurred.
Lawsuits have been filed over the company allegedly using this clause to force families to choose between accepting useless vouchers or partial, heavily penalized refund payments. The company is charging as much as $1,000 in “non-refundable fees” per student, according to the Los Angeles Times. This means the company is charging families a penalty, in some cases, of nearly a third of the expenses paid.
Neither alternative is reasonable. You shouldn’t forfeit up to one-third of the cost for a trip that never happened. Since many such trips are reserved for seniors, most students will be out of school – not just for the year, but for good – by the time it becomes possible to reschedule the educational tour given the ongoing global pandemic.
There is a third option: pursue legal action against an educational tour company as part of a class action or individual refund refusal lawsuit.
If an educational tour company or another travel company tries to use a clause like this as an excuse to keep the money you paid for a service you never received, you should speak to a refund refusal lawyer. It’s possible that clauses such as these violate consumer protections laws in your state and would be considered unenforceable. But the company you’re seeking a refund from won’t volunteer that information.
College closures necessitated by the public health risk of the coronavirus outbreak have left students struggling to get refunds.
Going to college is a huge financial investment. Even the most affordable four-year options – in-state public colleges – cost upwards of $10,000 in tuition and fees alone, according to U.S. News & World Report. Going to school out of state more than doubles the expense, with public out-of-state schools charging more than $22,500 on average and private schools charge a stunning $36,800 in tuition and fees. And that’s not counting the cost of room and board if students live on campus.
Yet many colleges are not issuing refunds at all, and some that are have offered unfairly low rates of refunds.
If you paid for the privilege of living on campus, it probably wasn’t cheap. Even at public in-state colleges, students who live on campus can expect to spend $11,000 or more per year on room and board costs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Then the coronavirus struck, prompting colleges to shut down and send students home for the remainder of the spring semester. That’s months of your room and board costs wasted. Students who took out private loans for those expenses may already be accruing interest on these costs – and they clearly didn’t get their money’s worth.
You shouldn’t have to pay for the months of room and board you didn’t get to use. When colleges have been hesitant to issue refunds for these housing and dining fees, students and their families have had to turn to litigation to get what’s theirs. By early May, dozens of colleges and universities had lawsuits filed against them over COVID-19 refund-related matters, NBC Philadelphia News reported.
Why won’t schools refund the money? Some colleges, like Georgetown University, have communicated to their students that the institution “is not in a financial position to offer any rebates on housing or meal plans,” NBC News reported.
However, it’s unfair for students who are already paying rapidly increasing tuition rates, and often taking out loans to do so, to also have to foot this bill for a service they didn’t get to use. Additionally, colleges already received a government bailout – $14 million in grants – from the federal CARES Act, Forbes reported.
Getting a tuition refund may be more challenging than merely getting back your housing and dining fees.
Instead of canceling the semester completely – and with many students already midway through the spring term by the time COVID-19 disrupted their education – most schools switched from in-person instruction to online learning. Students were still getting an educational service – but was it the same quality of instruction they paid for?
From many students, the answer was a resounding “No!” As a result, numerous colleges are seeing lawsuits not only for refunds of room and board fees, but also for partial refunds of tuition, ABC News reported.
Schools are vehemently fighting back against tuition refund demands. If you want to get back the money you’re entitled to, there’s no question: you need a COVID-19 refund denial lawyer on your side.
Some of the colleges and universities currently facing lawsuits from students include:
When the coronavirus pandemic canceled your concert, play, sporting event, convention, or other event, you were disappointed. But when you found out that you weren’t even getting your money back, that disappointment changed to frustration.
You paid good money for the experience you purchased. It may have been a gift, or a splurge, and was likely something you looked forward to for quite some time. And then it didn’t happen. The company certainly shouldn’t be holding onto your money when it can’t fulfill the promise of giving you access to the event. But many companies are – and it’s prompted numerous lawsuits.
Some of the types of tickets for which you can pursue a refund lawsuit include:
Companies are using different excuses to get out of refunding tickets.
What many companies are doing – and what’s leaving their customers furious – is denying cash refunds and insisting on compensating ticket holders only with vouchers or credit.
Some of the ticket sales companies that have already become the target of lawsuits include:
Some plaintiffs on the ongoing COVID-19 refund lawsuits have a lot on the line, having spent several thousands of dollars on event tickets.
Others spent far less – even as little as under $100 per ticket.
Even if your refund amount doesn’t seem like it’s enough to warrant hiring an attorney and suing in a court of law, you may still be able to pursue a claim as part of class action litigation.
So many of these refund issues revolve around big things – a planned vacation, a major festival or concert, a year away at college. But COVID-19 has had just as big an impact on more routine experiences. If you’re still getting charged a membership fee for a service, experience, or access that you’re not getting because of the coronavirus, you’re being taken advantage of.
Lockdowns in many states have prevented gym goers from carrying on with their regular routines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t being billed for supposed “access” to a facility you’re not allowed into.
Numerous lawsuits have already been filed against fitness chains across the country, including:
Some of these health clubs ultimately caved to the public backlash and potential legal consequences and revised their policies, NBC News reported. Others were ordered to stop withdrawing payments by state regulators.
These membership fees are really adding up. For every month a large fitness company like 24 Hour Fitness continues to collect membership fees despite being closed, they’re raking in an estimated $120 million dollars.
Maybe that’s why, even after disgruntled gym members filed lawsuits, 24 Hour Fitness wasn’t keen to put an end to the outrageous behavior that left its members furious. Despite being closed since mid-March, the company waited until April 1, 2020, to announce that it would finally stop automatic billing in yet another two weeks, on April 16, according to The San Diego Union Tribune.
What, exactly, are gym members getting in return for the collective multimillions of dollars they’re being charged by a closed gym?
Not enough – at least, for most gym goers. While many gyms have dabbled in virtual workout resources to at least offer some semblance of member benefits during this time, this service isn’t what you signed up for.
You could easily find virtual workout resources that are free or that cost less than your monthly gym membership. The reason you spent the money for (or, for many exercisers, splurged on) a membership was so you could have access to the space, equipment, and classes that you don’t have at home.
Maybe you don’t have the money or the space for a full weight training set, a treadmill, a stationary bike, and other equipment. Having access to these facilities was what made your gym membership worth it. If those facilities are closed, then you shouldn’t have to pay for them.
Depending on where in the U.S. you hit the gym, there are many different state-level laws that could come into play.
Many states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, Virginia, and others, have adopted some form of Health Club Act that regulates gym contracts. Some such acts specify what gyms must do in terms of membership fee refunds if temporarily closed, while others outline how long gyms have to act on membership refund requests.
Gym goers may be in for a shock when their fitness clubs do reopen. Many gyms are planning to require advance reservations for workouts, limit hours and capacity, and even restrict the length of workouts and the number of times members may use the gym weekly.
Even if your state doesn’t have such a law, or the law that exists doesn’t address refunds for temporary closures, you might have consumer protections under more general contract laws. A COVID-19 refund refusal attorney can review your circumstances and your gym membership contract to determine if the fitness club’s behavior violates other statutes that exist in your state, including:
What’s even pricier than a gym membership? How about a membership to a golf club?
The members of the 200 golf facilities owned by ClubCorp report paying monthly fees that range from $120 to $800. The company is now facing a lawsuit alleging that it continued to collect these high membership fees even during lockdowns that kept golfers off the green.
This is yet another example of paying for access that, during coronavirus lockdowns, you don’t have. The purpose of a golf club membership is to have access to the course. Without that access, where’s the value for the member?
Similar membership-based businesses that aren’t able to deliver on the promise of the purchase during COVID-19 should also freeze billing during closures, but not all of them are. If you’ve tried to work out a resolution with the company but you’re still being charged, it’s time to pursue legal action.
For activities that revolve around face-to-face social meetups, social distancing has been a major problem. Canceling these in-person events is reasonable. Continuing to charge members for them is not.
Events and Adventures, a pricey and exclusive dating service in California that features in-person events like rafting and horseback riding, is facing a lawsuit for allegedly doing just that.
Members of the singles club report being charged continuing membership fees of as much as $170 per month, even while the dating service is unable to live up to the “Events” part of its name, at least offline. The owner of the dating service was quoted in The Mercury News as responding to the lawsuits by saying, “We didn’t create this crisis.”
Much like monthly memberships, season passes offer one benefit: consistent, long-term, and frequent access to attractions that can range from amusement parks to ski resorts.
Buying a season pass usually offers some cost-savings for guests who plan to visit an attraction repeatedly, compared to buying one-day entrance passes numerous times. These passes may also confer additional member benefits.
But attractions as diverse as Six Flags amusement parks and Vail ski resorts are facing legal trouble after failing to refund season passholders for the time during which their passes were not honored due to coronavirus-related closures.
Six Flags amusement parks closed in mid-March, but the company has been sued for allegedly continuing to charge season passholders monthly fees during the time that the park remained closed.
Instead of freezing memberships for season passholders, Six Flags has reportedly kept charging these customers now for the privilege of future access, announcing that, “for each operating day that the park is closed during the 2020 Season, we will give you one additional operating day during the 2021 season.” The company is also offering upgrades to higher-tier memberships and additional member benefits.
But many season passholders feel it’s not enough to make up for continuing to bill them during this health and economic crisis. When you’re out of work, struggling to pay the rent or mortgage and keep food on the table, every dollar counts. The promise of future access is little comfort to families that are worried about just getting through the month or even the week.
Season passholders who don’t want to be charged must take the action to “pause” their account, Six Flags now says. However, season passholders who were informed of the park closures understandably expected that billing would stop automatically, since they no longer had access to the parks.
Even once the parks reopen, the “new Corona normal” will look different from the season of gravity-defying rides passholders signed up for.
When the parks finally reopen, will the season passholders who were unfairly charged this whole time be able to go often enough to get their money’s worth?
Researchers found that the rate of COVID-19 cases in Colorado ski towns was up to 30 times higher than in nearby non-skiing communities, according to The Colorado Sun. Under the circumstances, closing the resort was warranted – but choosing not to refund season passholders was not.
Vail Resorts Management Co. owns 34 high-end resorts, all of which were closed due to COVID-19. Season passholders whose access to the mountain resorts was cut short by months are moving forward with a lawsuit against the resort company for failing to issue refunds.
A season pass purchased in Fall 2019 should have bought access to the resort until June 2020, but coronavirus forced the company to close all resorts in March. Without a refund, season passholders are truly being left out in the cold – with none of the ski access they paid for over as much as one-quarter of the year and no money back.
You’re upset about being denied a refund. But is your situation really worth filing a lawsuit over?
If you’re reluctant to hire an attorney because you don’t think your refund amount is worth pursuing legal action, consider just how many people this company is ripping off.
Perhaps you got a great deal on the flight that ended up getting canceled due to coronavirus. A $49 plane ticket may not seem like it would be worth suing over. But if you were just one of 150 passengers on that plane, the airline is holding onto $7,350 from just that one flight.
Now multiply that revenue by the 44,000 flights per day that the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Organization serves (or at least, it did before the coronavirus struck). We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars in airfare for each day of COVID-19 cancellations.
There’s power in numbers, and that’s how class action lawsuits work – by seeking damages for a potentially large number of individuals consolidated into one class. Alone, it’s true that your refund might be too small to sue over, but as part of a class, you’re part of a bigger movement to hold the company accountable.
One reason consumers with legitimate refund refusal claims doubt whether they can pursue the case is because they believe that lawyers are expensive.
In fact, in an original survey our law firm conducted of Americans across all geographical regions, income levels, genders, and age groups, 51 percent of respondents reported that the biggest reason they would be reluctant to hire an attorney is the cost.
But in a class action claim, you pay nothing out of pocket for your legal representation. There are no upfront fees to pursue the case. Your attorney gets a portion of the proceeds the law firm ultimately recovers for you and your fellow class members, as determined by the court.
Officially, this type of attorneys’ fee arrangement is called a contingency fee – because your lawyer’s payment for the work of representing you is contingent on achieving a favorable outcome. Contingency-based attorneys’ fees are commonly known as no-win, no-fee representation because you only pay if and when you win your case.
The confusing contract language and frustratingly illogical rationales for denying refunds can leave consumers with a lot of questions and few answers. Here are some of the answers to the biggest refund questions consumers have in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Generally, refund policies aren’t legally required in the United States.
The federal government generally leaves regulation of consumer refund policies to the states, with the exception of the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule. This rule allows consumers 3 days to change their minds about purchases made in certain locations, including in their own homes or in a retailer’s temporary location, with some exceptions. However, it’s probably not relevant to your COVID-19 situation, since many such claims are outside that 3-day period and since this rule does not apply to purchases made online or by telephone.
State Consumer Protection Offices may enforce state-level regulations. In most states, though, retailers may set their own refund policies.
That said, they can’t take your money and fail to provide the service or access you purchased.
Although not always required by law, having a written refund policy is a smart business move that helps foster consumer trust and set expectations. For this reason, most retailers do adopt such a policy.
For a refund policy to be valid, it should be prominently displayed at the time of sale. Some areas, like New York, impose their own refund policy in the event that the retailer does not have a policy posted, according to the Better Business Bureau.
If the company denies you a refund for a service you did not receive due to COVID-19, claiming not to have a refund policy or that your situation is not covered under the refund policy is not sufficient to get out of paying back the money it owes you. A coronavirus refund refusal attorney can fight for your consumer rights.
You’ve been promised a refund, but weeks or even months have passed without a sign of your money. What’s taking so long?
The coronavirus has led to countless refund requests across numerous industries, from travel to higher education to fitness memberships. It is possible that the company that has promised you a refund really does intend to deliver on that promise but is simply bogged down with the sheer number of refunds to process.
But as some consumers are finding, that’s not always the case. If you’ve tried reaching out but the company isn’t responding to your requests for an update, it may be because the company is intentionally delaying payment of your refund. And that company may not really plan to return your money at all.
If you’ve been patient and the company that owes you has been out of contact, moving forward with a lawsuit may be what’s needed to get your refund.
Suppose you decide that you don’t mind a voucher instead of a refund.
Maybe you’re able to be flexible with your travel plans. A voucher isn’t necessarily a bad deal. Some of the companies that are offering vouchers and credit are sweetening the deal by giving their customers 120 percent of the value they paid toward their future purchases, offering membership upgrades, and providing other benefits.
Here’s what you need to know about vouchers and credit offered in lieu of cash refunds:
Lawyers to Help with Your Refund Refusal Claim
Let our attorneys help you understand your legal rights and options. We’ll review your coronavirus refund refusal claim for at no cost and explain what no-win, no-fee legal representation can do for you.