Mumbai: The Covid-19 virus, which is now active in more than 100 countries, has hit many consumers who had pre-booked services like flights, hotel, events and also those who have missed payments for policy premiums, EMIs and bills.
Consumer Guidance Society of India has come to the aid of people who are facing action from service providers for late payment or are unable to get refunds for the pre-booked services.
With a lockdown across the country and movements being restricted, consumers who are using or have booked a wide range of services and products will be seriously affected by the lockdown and its after effects.
Those who have made bookings for travel, hotel, cinema or theatre shows or other events will find that either the service/event is not taking place or is inaccessible due to restrictions in force.
"What happens to their refund for services paid for in advance? This is the first question bothering everybody. While the Railways have been quick to respond and stated that they will pay the full refund for those travelling on the restricted days notified by the Government, others have not been so quick in either announcing or effecting their refund policies," said Dr MS Kamath, Secretary of CGSI.
Some airlines, like GoAir, have announced on their website that travellers who have a booking on the restricted days will be allowed to transfer their bookings to any other day onany others sector, subject to payment of the difference of fares, even if they do not show up at the airport on the day/time of their flight.
Spicejet, on the other hand, has offered to transfer such reservations only for fresh reservations made for the month of April 2020. "While the former is a reasonable offer, the latter is blatantly anti-consumer, as the flyer may not wish to travel in April and stands to lose his amount paid to the airline. In any event, what prevents these airlines from offering a full refund in the current scenario?
If a public sector like the Railways can offer full refunds, why not better service-oriented private airlines? It is pertinent to note that a cancellation is not allowed by both airlines only change of booking is permitted), as the client then has to shell out a hefty Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per sector of travel on which he /she affects the cancellation," added Kamath.