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Covid-19: I paid Dh30,000 for a Europe trip that was cancelled. Can I get a full refund?
Know your legal rights in the UAE.
Question: I paid Dh30,000 to book a Europe tour through a travel agency in Dubai in March this year. However, because of Covid-19-triggered border closures and air travel suspensions, I approached the agency with a request to cancel the booking. The travel agent told me I would lose 60 per cent of the amount I had paid if I chose to cancel it. Is this legal? The flight I was supposed to travel on was cancelled because of the pandemic.
We assume that you have signed an agreement with the travel agency through which you booked the Europe tour. Therefore, the Civil Transactions Law and the Consumer Protection Law may be applicable.
Based on the provisions of Civil Transactions Law, both you and the travel agency have to fulfil the obligations stated in the signed agreement. You have already done the basic obligation of paying the amount to the travel agency. However, the agency's basic obligation is to organise the tour, which has not been fulfilled yet.
If the signed agreement mentions that the travel agency may deduct 60 per cent of the paid amount if you cancel the tour because of personal reasons or those which are beyond your control, then you may not be in a position to claim the entire refund of the amount you paid. However, if the agreement does not mention any conditions related to the cancellation of the tour, or if it mentions that the amount will be refunded if the tour is cancelled due to reasons beyond anyone's control, then the travel agency may have to refund the entire amount to you.
In your case, it is also important to note that the Covid-19 pandemic may be considered a 'force majeure', defined as "unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract". Thereby, the signed terms and conditions or the agreement between you and the agency may be revoked.
This is in accordance with Article 273 (1) of the Civil Transactions Law, which states: "In bilateral contracts, if a force majeure arises that makes the performance of the obligation impossible, the corresponding obligation shall be extinguished and the contract ipso facto rescinded."
Therefore, you may request the travel agency to refund the entire Dh30,000 you paid for the tour. If the travel agency does not agree to refund the amount, you may approach the consumer protection section of the Dubai Department of Economic Development and file a complaint against the agency.
Under the Article 4 (6) of the Consumer Protection Law, the Consumer Protection Department is mandated to "receive consumers' complaints and adopt the procedures in this regard or refer them to the competent authorities".
"The complaint may be submitted directly by the consumer, and may be submitted by the consumer protection association for it is considered a representative of the complainant," it added.
On the other hand, you may also lodge a civil complaint against the travel agency at the Centre for Amicable Settlement of Disputes at the Dubai Courts. This is a reconciliation department of the Dubai Courts which deals with claims amounting below Dh50,000.
Know the law:
If a force majeure arises that makes the performance of an obligation impossible, this corresponding obligation shall be extinguished and the contract rescinded.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: email@example.com or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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