NYS DCP gives consumers tips on how to travel smart

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Fri, April 1, 2022 10:05 am

Says New Yorkers should know their rights and follow basic tips to get the best deals and avoid travel scams

Filed by the New York State Division of Consumer Protection

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection is reminding New Yorkers of their rights when planning spring and summer trips. Travel disputes remain one of the top complaints handled by DCP. In 2021, DCP handled hundreds of complaints from consumers who had to cancel or reschedule their travel plans due to COVID-19. As COVID-19 restrictions lift and more New Yorkers travel again, consumers should be educated on their rights, shop wisely to protect their hard-earned money, and remain vigilant to guard against scams.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant travel disruptions, but it has also taught consumers valuable lessons about responsible travel,” said Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, who oversees the DCP. “By following these tips, New Yorkers will be better prepared to navigate the market and spend responsibly as they plan their long-awaited trip this spring and summer.”

Superintendent of Financial Services, Adrienne A. Harris, said, “When New Yorkers travel again, they are strongly encouraged to read all travel insurance policies and associated documents carefully when considering purchasing travel insurance to fully understand what is included covered in the event that travel plans go awry.”

Shop smart for the trip

There are basic travel tips that consumers should consider when booking a trip:

√ Do your research. Consumers should always consider the factors of a trip before making a purchase, including price, location, activity availability and cancellation policy. Before booking the trip, also consider whether the location has any COVID-19 restrictions, e.g. B. Test or vaccination status.

√ Obtain all confirmations in writing. To protect against contract modification fraud, consumers should always confirm their plans in writing, whether booking online, over the phone, or in person. Retailers are required to disclose terms and conditions to consumers – always obtain a copy of the agreement and keep it for future reference.

√ Beware of “all inclusive” or too good-to-true deals. All-inclusive plans sound great, but they can have hidden costs and fees in their terms and conditions. Consumers may not be aware of these fees until they check out if their bill is higher than stated. Sometimes these offers come with an agreement to join a membership or attend a presentation. Always inquire about mandatory fees that may not be included in the advertised price, such as: B. Resort Fees and Taxes. Read the fine print when using an “all inclusive” offer.

√ If possible, try to pay by credit card. Credit cards often offer more protection than paying with cash, check, or debit card. Some credit card companies also offer perks such as travel insurance or concierge service while traveling and may offer additional protection if the trip is cancelled. Check with your credit card company for travel expense reimbursement conditions.

√ Check your travel arrangements. Did you know that you have the option to cancel a travel contract? The New York State Truth in Travel Act protects consumers from fraud, false advertising, misrepresentation and other abuses. Travel agents and tour operators must provide consumers with written disclosures of all terms and conditions of the travel service within five days of the purchase or agreement. Consumers should fully review the terms of the agreements upon receipt and ensure that they match what the consumer purchased. Consumers have a right of withdrawal until the third working day after receipt of the agreement at 24:00. Consumers can also cancel at any time during the five-day period before receiving the information.

√ Use reputable travel agents/tour operators. Consumers should do thorough research before choosing an agent or company to work with. Keep track of agreements and contracts and read the terms and conditions, especially the cancellation and refund policies. Reservations often require a deposit that may not be refunded. If the trip is cancelled, the deposit may only be used for future trips or may be forfeited entirely. Consumers should make sure they understand the policy before posting a security deposit.

√ Consider travel insurance and whether you need a cancellation for any reason policy. Travel insurance can provide consumers with relief in the event of an emergency before or during their trip, with coverage ranging from lost baggage to missed connecting flights to potential medical emergencies. However, most standard travel insurance policies do not cover trip interruption or cancellation due to COVID-19, as such standard policies typically exclude coverage for an epidemic, pandemic or similar public health event. Some travel insurance plans offer “cancellation for any reason” coverage at an additional cost that is often significantly higher than standard travel insurance and typically only reimburses up to 75% of the trip cost if the trip is cancelled. Before purchasing a plan, read the terms of the policy and ask your insurer about coverage that may be excluded.

trip cancellation

When a trip is canceled in whole or in part, a consumer’s cancellation policy and right to a refund will vary based on laws governing the company’s industry, who initiates the cancellation, when the cancellation occurs, and the company’s own policy.

√ According to the US Department of Transportation, airlines can offer refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fees charged, for canceled or significantly delayed flights, even when flight disruptions are beyond their control. If an airline doesn’t do this, consumers can report it to them US Department of Transportation. If consumers cancel a reservation for any reason, consumers are subject to the refund policies agreed upon at the time of purchase, which may not be a refund at all.

√ For cruise lines, refund options may vary. The cruise ticket contract sets out the company’s cancellation policy and your rights. For example, one may be offered a refund, credit, or voucher towards a future cruise. If one decides to use a credit or voucher, make sure that the expiry date is far enough away for it to be used. Read more from the Federal Maritime Commission about consumer rights and possible remedies.

√ Cancellation policies for hotels, motels, and online accommodation marketplaces can vary widely depending on the season, room type, or length of stay, even within the same establishment. Some offer a choice of a refundable or non-refundable rate at the time of booking. Make sure you fully understand the cancellation policy before making a reservation.

If a consumer is having difficulty obtaining a refund owed for all or part of a canceled trip, they are encouraged to do so lodge a complaint with DCP.

Signs of a travel scam

The Federal Trade Commission warns against it common travel scam. Some signs of a travel booking scam are:

√ You have “won” a free holiday. Scammers sometimes lure consumers with a free ride, but then disclose fees or deposits to gain access. A prize should not involve money and is likely to be a scam.

√ The details of your trip are vague. Consumers may be offered a stay at a five-star hotel or on a luxury cruise line, but then few details about the voyage are presented. Always confirm and verify the company name and location of the trip details.

√ You only have a limited time to claim the offer. Scammers often urge consumers to make quick decisions about a deal, making it likely that the consumer won’t have time to review the offer. Never feel pressured to agree to terms that you have not verified yourself.

√ You have to pay in an unusual way. Cryptocurrencies, bank transfers and gift cards are difficult to trace and perfect for scammers looking to take advantage of consumers who cannot recoup their losses if they pay this way. If a travel company insists that you pay in any of these ways, decline the offer and report the company.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection offers voluntary arbitration between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unable to resolve their own dispute. The Consumer Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding public holidays, and consumer complaints may be submitted at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection.

Travel insurance is regulated by the Department of Financial Services. Consumers with complaints about a New York or New York business-issued travel insurance policy or “cancellation for any reason” coverage should contact DFS at www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint or via the DFS Consumer Helpline at 800-342-3736, 212-480-6400, or 518-474-6600 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

For more tips on consumer protection, the DCP can be found on social media on Twitter: @NYSConsumer and Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

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