The corona situation raises many questions and concerns among consumers. The FCCA is closely monitoring the situation and consumer advisors are now answering to the most common travel and public transport questions received by Consumer Advisory Services.
Follow the company's instructions. If the matter is not urgent, you should wait in peace. Many matters can be resolved afterwards.
See also the answers to questions about events and services
Coronavirus and consumer rights
The European Commission has launched Re-open EU, a web platform to support a safe relaunch of travelling and tourism across Europe on 15th June 2020.
Can I travel abroad even though it is not recommended?
The Consumer Advice Services does not provide recommendations for travel. A Government decision has started restricting Finnish border traffic starting from 00.00 on Thursday, 19 March 2020. The Government will review the situation approximately every two weeks.
As the epidemic situation may change rapidly, it is recommended for each passenger to check the restrictions on tourists in the destination countries.
More information is available on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
What happens if I get stuck abroad?
Regarding the matter, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has given general guidelines and answers travellers’ most common answers.
When stuck, the situation depends on whether your flight is cancelled or some other reason, such as quarantine or a ban on leaving the country or territory.
An air passenger always has certain minimum rights when a flight is cancelled if the flight departs from another EU country, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. The same rules are applied to flights departing from airports outside the EU heading to an airport in the EU, if the airline in question is based in an EU country.
For example, if your return flight is cancelled, you can choose between having it refunded or rerouted. Rerouting can be very difficult under these circumstances, and you may have to arrange your return yourself. If your flight is cancelled, contact the airline.
Can I cancel a travel package for which I have already paid and, if so, under what conditions?
The right to cancel travel free of charge depends on the country of destination and its epidemic situation. The right to cost-free cancellation does not necessarily apply to countries where travel is unrestricted.
When booking a journey, it is advisable to check what kinds of change and cancellation policies are stated in the terms and conditions of the contract. Each passenger is also advised to check whether there are travel restrictions in the destination country.
The right to cancel travel free of charge continue to apply to countries where border traffic is still significantly restricted.
If it is still a long time until the trip begins, it is not necessarily worth cancelling it at this stage, but better instead to stay calm and wait to see how the situation develops. The trip organiser will themselves cancel the trip if it cannot be carried out as planned.
When you cancel a tour, the tour operator must, as a rule, return the money within 14 days of the cancellation of the contract. Due to the exceptional nature of the situation, there may be delays in refunds.
The tour operator may offer you a voucher or gift card instead of a cash refund. You are free to accept such an offer, but you have the right to receive a refund if you wish. A voucher is a safe option for the consumer as long as it meets certain conditions. Read more here on the FCCA's position on vouchers.
Does cancellation of the package give a right to compensation for damages?
Travellers are not entitled to compensation for expenses related to their trip that cannot now be made use of due to the cancellation of the trip. This includes, for example, visa costs.
If the trip was unsatisfactory, meaning that it did not correspond to what was agreed, you are entitled to receive a price reduction. This is possible even if the problems were due to unavoidable and exceptional circumstances. Minor changes and deficiencies are not, however, sufficient for demanding a discount.
However, compensation may not be obtained from the tour operator for additional expenses, loss of earnings or loss of holiday enjoyment due to exceptional arrangements or cancellations resulting from the coronavirus.
Can I cancel a flight or change flight tickets at no additional cost?
If you are flying, but you are unable to board due to travel restrictions and recommendations, you should be able to reschedule your trip or receive a refund.
The consumer's right to cancel or reschedule their flight is not written into legislation; instead, the refunds are assessed in the light of the general terms and conditions and ticket terms for the company in question, the practices adopted in these exceptional circumstances, and assessments of what is reasonable. Due to coronavirus, many airlines have introduced more flexible change and cancellation policies and have offered consumers the opportunity to reschedule their flights to a later date at no extra cost.
The airline cancelled the flight and is offering me a voucher. Is it possible to get my money back instead, since I don't want the voucher?
If the airline cancels the flight you purchased, you have the right to choose whether to receive a refund or reschedule your flight. Instead of receiving a refund, you can choose to reschedule your flight to another time that is suitable for you, providing that there are seats available. These rights always apply if your flight was set to leave the EU or arrive from outside the EU provided that the flight would have been operated by an EU airline.
Currently, several airlines are offering vouchers or gift cards and various points systems as an alternative to refunds. If you wish, you can accept the voucher or the air points offered, but under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation you always have the right to receive a cash refund. Therefore, you do not have to accept the gift card offered or the air points based on the airline's own scoring system. It may not be possible to demand a refund from the creditor if you choose the voucher and are then not able to use it later on.
I’m considering accepting the voucher, but what happens if the airline goes bankrupt?
Gift cards or points may be a good option, depending on your situation and that of the airline. They may also include attractive additional benefits and offers. If you have paid for your original trip with a credit card, you should remember that in the event of airline bankruptcy you may lose your right to claim money back from the credit card company if you have changed the refund to a gift card or points.
Travel by boat
I have purchased a boat trip, but I don't want to travel because of the coronavirus. Can I cancel or reschedule my trip?
If the boat trip is not due to begin in the near future, it is worth continuing to follow the development of the situation and the information provided by the company. The passenger’s position is generally clearer and more secure when the shipping company cancels the trip rather than the passenger cancelling it themselves. The consumer's right to cancel a journey is not written into legislation; instead, the consumer’s rights are assessed in the light of the general terms and conditions and ticket terms for the company in question, the practices adopted in these exceptional circumstances, and assessments of what is reasonable. If the boat on which you reserved your trip is due to leave but then cannot because of travel restrictions and recommendations, you should be allowed to either reschedule your trip or receive a refund.
In order to determine your options for cancellation or change of date, you should familiarise yourself with the ticket’s terms and conditions and contact the shipping company from which you purchased the trip.
What if the shipping company cancels my journey. What are my rights?
If the shipping company cancels the trip that you purchased, you have the right to either receive a refund of the ticket price or postpone your trip to a later date. You can read more about the rights of sea passengers here.
Instead of a refund, the shipping company may, for example, offer a voucher or offer to reschedule the trip. If you wish, you may accept the voucher or the change of date, but under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation you always have the right to receive a cash refund of the ticket price. In other words, you do not have to accept a gift card or a rescheduled date unless it suits you to do so.
Can I cancel the accommodation I have booked myself?
The option of cancelling a hotel you have booked yourself is only guaranteed if the hotel's cancellation policy allows for this. However, if the hotel cannot provide the agreed service at all, for example because the hotel itself or the entire area in which it is located has been quarantined, or the area is in a state of emergency or under a travel ban, then you can claim a refund.
Travel in Finland
I have paid for accommodation at a Finnish holiday destination. Can I cancel my reservation and be refunded as I do not want to take a trip in Finland under these conditions? The accommodation company is adhering strictly to their reservation terms.
Cancellation rights are mainly determined by reservation terms. However, the relevant legislation allows mediating these terms if their application would lead to an unreasonable situation for the consumer. Due to the coronavirus situation, unnecessary domestic tourism should be avoided. In such a situation, you can negotiate the rescheduling of the reservation to a later date or demand at least a partial refund. If you have no possibility of making use of the booking due to travel restrictions, it may be reasonable to receive a full refund.
Train traffic runs at a reduced frequency, and I do not know if the journey I have purchased will materialize. Can I use the ticket later?
If your train is cancelled, you have the right to either use the ticket later on the same route or, alternatively, get it refunded. Delays can result in a price reduction. This is not affected by the exceptional situation created by the coronavirus. Currently, VR offers to exchange journeys free of charge. Travel destination and travel class must remain the same.
Information from the website of VR
I have bought a monthly pass for public transport in my municipality of residence. Can I transfer my ticket to a later period when I'm assigned to telecommuting?
In the current situation, some operators have either already introduced or are considering introducing different forms of flexibility or compensation. It is a good idea to check with your area's public transport operator.
However, as public transport is still functioning and serving the public normally, for example, teleworking does not in principle justify the refunding of the ticket or its transferring to a later period. The situation will change if public transport is significantly restricted by government regulations or decisions taken by the operator.
In addition, public transport compensation policies may have been modified on account of government restrictions. Such restrictions may include quarantine or the movement restrictions for persons over the age of 70. In these cases, compensation can be applied for afterwards.
I paid by credit card. Can I get my money back from the credit card company?
If you have the right to get your money back from a seller or service provider, you can request a refund from the bank that issued the credit card. The credit card company cannot require you to primarily contact a company that provided the service you have purchased. Instead, you can choose which party you will be requesting a refund from. However, especially in this exceptional situation, you should review any instructions and information on the schedule of refunds from the service provider's website before submitting your claim to the credit card company.
If you have already received your money back from a seller or service provider, you cannot request a refund from the credit card company. In addition, credit card companies have no obligation to refund a larger sum than they have received from you in the form of payments.
Should I insist on my rights as a consumer in all situations?
The situation is quite exceptional and has a major impact on both consumers and businesses. Consumer law confers certain rights on the consumer, but the exercise of these rights is at the discretion of each consumer.
In every case, mind that it will take a longer time to resolve issues. It is not possible to say with certainty in all cases what you are entitled to and what kind of compensation should be considered sufficient. It is worth trying to resolve matters in an amicable manner: in the current exceptional circumstances, a compromise may be a better option than a possibly lengthy dispute.
Many customer service lines are completely congested due to the coronavirus. Exceptional circumstances require a degree of restraint from consumers, and they should use other means of communication instead of the telephone.
If the matter is not urgent, the consumer should wait in peace. Many matters can be resolved afterwards.