Trying to get a cash refund from a hotel in Italy? Expect a voucher instead.

After a lengthy back and forth with the customer service team at Agoda.com and the hotel that I booked this April in Rome, Tribune Hotel … I recently hit a brick wall as Agoda.com would not honor their Terms of Use and their Coronavirus policy in issuing me a cancellation waiver/refund, and instead, sided with their hotel’s choice to issue me a voucher — backed by a new Italian law. And it certainly looks like it’s not just the one booking platform, but all hotels in Italy right now.

On the upside, yes … You get something. On the downside, it is a voucher that is limited to one year. With the current crisis still underway, it’s incredibly optimistic that anyone will be able to travel within the year.

What’s this new Italian decree-law say about refunds?

Because of the recent Cura-Italia decree in Italy due to Covid-19 (Coronavirus), hotels are now authorized by the Italian decree-law to refund you a time-sensitive voucher in lieu of a cash refund within a 30-day communication of a refund. Art. 88 of the decree-law, Cura-Italia, is currently in place until May 3rd (unless the lockdown gets extended). Though they have the option to either refund or give you a voucher, it seems quite a few hotels, tours, museums, etc are stubbornly opting for a voucher.

The law is trying to save the Italian tourism industry and not necessarily protect the rights of the consumer. I’m hoping that there is further clarification on the terms of the voucher from the Italian government in the future and what to do if the voucher expires or if the company goes out of business. We customers also need liquidity right now during these troubling times. 

And scary enough, in this article by One Mile At A Time, this may apply to previously refundable deposits as well.

Shouldn’t you be happy that you’re getting anything at all?

I suppose, but I doubt I’m not the only one that won’t really be able to use it. Personally, it’s extremely unrealistic for me to hop on an expensive and risky plane within the year. No one knows whether coronavirus is here to stay until a vaccine can safely be created and distributed. I also don’t know when quarantines, travel restrictions will be lifted, lockdowns ended, or flights available … Or whether I’ll be able to afford a flight or safely visit Italy from South Korea within that one-year period to redeem my voucher.

This article from Spazio Consumatori brings some hope as it seems some Italian Consumer Unions are trying to ease consumer tensions surrounding the voucher by arguing that some clarification is needed. Perhaps in the form of a refund after the voucher expires so customers aren’t demanding refunds all at once, toppling the tourism industry? Or the ability to transfer the voucher to another name? Let’s see!

Art 88, translated to English via Google, can be read below. You can also go to Gazzetta Ufficiale to read the Cura-Italia law-decree in Italian. Under the eyes of the decree-law, hotels are considered residences.

Cura-Italia Decree Law, Art 88

(Refund of residence contracts and termination of employment contracts) purchase of tickets for shows, museums and other places in the culture)

1 The provisions of article 28 of the decree-law of March 2 2020, n. 9 also apply to the residence contracts for which the impossibility of the performance occurred a following the measures adopted pursuant to article 3 of the law decree 23 February 2020 n.6.

2. Following the adoption of the measures referred to in Article 2, paragraph l, letters b) and d) of the Prime Minister’s decree 8 March 2020 and from the date of adoption of the same decree, pursuant to and for the purposes of article 1463 of the civil code, the impossibility of performance due in in relation to contracts for the purchase of admission tickets for shows of any nature, including cinematographic and theater, and entrance tickets to museums and other places of culture.

3. The purchasers submit, within thirty days from the date of entry into force of this decree, a specific request by refund to the seller, attaching the relevant purchase document. The seller, within thirty days of submitting the application for referred to in the first period, will issue a peer voucher amount to the purchase order, to be used within one year issue.

4. The provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 apply up to effective date of the measures provided for by the President’s decree of the Council of 8 March 2020 and any further implementing decrees issued pursuant to article 3, paragraph l, of law decree 23 February 2020, n. 6.” 

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