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I had planned to be in Northern Italy next week and had prepaid the accommodation (apartment rather than hotel, paid by bank transfer rather than CC in full). With the travel ban in force I asked for a refund but was told I could have credit to stay in the same place within a year as a "force majeure" situation doesn't grant refunds.

I neither agreed to any terms mentioning this, nor does their website mention it anywhere. My belief is I can't, therefore, be held to their unwritten terms.

So, the question. Is there any implied terms relating to accommodation that are legally binding that they are correct in applying in Italy?

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    Who did you book with? – Traveller Mar 10 at 10:30
  • Direct with the accommodation (broadly speaking, it was their agent) – atlaz Mar 10 at 10:36
  • Did the agent or the website ever state that the booking was refundable (or not)? – jcaron Mar 10 at 11:21
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    @atlaz Did they actually cancel? From your question, it looks more like you want to cancel (because you can't get there) rather than the other way around. – jcaron Mar 10 at 12:33
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    I doubt they have any requirement to actually issue a refund, as it is not them not honouring their end of the deal. I think it is actually quite fair from them to provide credit for a later stay, they probably don't have a requirement to do that either. Also, where are you based? Unless it is regulated at the EU-level (which I doubt in this case), consumer law when the two parties are in different countries quickly becomes a pretty complex issue due to (sometimes conflicting) territoriality rules. – jcaron Mar 10 at 13:32
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(not a lawyer)

I would consider it a loss and an unfortunate lesson learned (pay by CC, have a contract, use a recognized booking agent with appropriate contract terms for refund...)

The question you need to ask yourself is, even if there are consumer laws regarding "act of god" epidemic like that.

How much money and time (remember time is money) and stress are you willing to spend trying to resolve the issue.

Let's say there is a law regarding this, and you ask the agent for a refund and he says "no"; what are your options ? get a local lawyer ? how much does that cost and how long will it take to resolve this ?

BTW, I expect a lot of booking agents are now rewriting all of their contracts and added exclusions for refund in case of pandemics.

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    The EU has a number of legal methods to deal with this without recourse to a lawyer for precisely the reasons you outline. Before I force them to respond to an EU Small Claims Court request, I'm trying to ascertain whether they are legally correct or just trying to retain the money (which many companies would do). – atlaz Mar 10 at 11:39
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The counterpart (you didn't mention travel agent or hotel) was correct.

With Decree 9 of 2nd March 2020, article 28, the Italian government ordered airlines, raillines and ferrylines and in general touristic operators to issue vouchers than refunds for canceled bookings. A lot of controversy originated from this decision as it is blatantly against the EU/261 directive.

While the antitrust authority investigates on the matter, the vouchers are perfectly lawful.

Your best option is to contact any of the Consumer Rights associations in Italy in case they file a class action that you can join. Going to small claims court is extremely slow and time-consuming in the pandemic era.

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