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COVID-19 Brings Record Level Of Travel-related Complaints To Commerce Commission

The impact of COVID-19 has seen a record level of travel-related complaints to the Commerce Commission in the 2019/20 year.

The Commission has released its Complaints Snapshot for 2019/20 which shows that total complaints received by the Commission in the year ending 30 June 2020 were 9,892, an increase of more than 10% on the 2018/19 figure of 8,964.

Of the nearly 10,000 complaints received in 2019/20, 20% were somehow related to COVID-19, including many of the 1225 complaints in a new category of travel.

“Travel-related complaints include those about airlines, booking agents, motor vehicle rentals and accommodation. Not all of the travel complaints we received related to COVID-19 but the travel sector was strongly affected by the pandemic and that has caused a large increase in travel-related complaints,” said Commerce Commission Chair Anna Rawlings.

Travel complaints covered themes such as:

  • difficulty obtaining refunds
  • offers of credits rather than refunds for COVID-19-related cancellations
  • new contract terms inserted in contracts, such terms providing for cancellation fees to be charged.

Overall, 20% of complaints received during 2019/20 related to COVID-19 in some way, including those related to claims that products could protect consumers from the virus, and delays in delivery of goods purchased online during lockdown.

“We note that but for COVID-19, telecommunications retail service providers would have again been the most complained-about industry. There were 761 complaints about that industry during 2019/20, an increase of more than 4% on the 2018/19 tally of telecommunications complaints,” said Ms Rawlings.

“We welcome information from consumers and businesses about conduct that they consider might breach competition or consumer laws. We do not investigate every complaint we receive, but every complaint helps us to understand what conduct is of greatest concern to consumers and businesses, and to identify where to focus our activity and resources to have the greatest impact,” said Ms Rawlings.

Background

The speech bubbles in the Complaints Snapshot for 2019/20 do not contain real complaints from consumers. They are indicative of some of the kinds of complaints we received.

A complaint does not necessarily mean that any law has been breached.

This snapshot only reflects complaints to the Commission. Some complaints on the same matters might have gone to other agencies.

Larger industries are likely to generate more complaints because they have many more customers.

High levels of publicity about an industry or an issue can sometimes result in more complaints.

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