I was due to travel to attend an event that has been cancelled. Can I get a refund?
That depends. If you bought your ticket for a cancelled event from an official seller, you are entitled to a refund, often automatically. For example, those who bought tour packages to go to the Italy v England Six Nations rugby match in Rome on 14 March – which has been postponed – will be offered a full refund or tickets for the new date.
But Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which?, added: “Unfortunately, it will be harder to get a refund on any travel or accommodation booked for the match, unless these were purchased as part of a package deal.”
Keep a close eye on venue and ticket agency websites, especially before you set off – most are providing regular updates. If you opt not to go, there are a number of fan-to-fan resale websites, including Twickets, where you can sell your tickets and hopefully recoup your outlay.
Also bear in mind that if you have purchased a ticket through a resale website, refunds will depend on the site’s (typically restrictive) terms and conditions.
What if my concerns over the virus mean I don’t want to attend but event organisers go ahead and won’t refund me?
This is a tricky area and you may be fighting your case with large numbers of other people, but as a last resort you could turn to your credit or debit card provider to seek a section 75 claim or chargeback.
Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the retailer or trader. This right is useful if the retailer or trader has gone bust, or doesn’t respond to your pressure, although the transaction must be for a sum over £100. Similarly, if you paid by debit card, then you can seek a debit card chargeback. You can’t apply for either if you paid by Bacs or direct bank transfer, however.
Will home deliveries continue as normal?
The British Retail Consortium says shops have so far seen no effect on the numbers of customers entering stores. But at the same time, demand for home deliveries appears to be soaring. Last week, the delivery giant Ocado advised customers to place their orders early, due to “exceptionally high demand”.
The government has told supermarkets to ensure they make provision for home delivery to vulnerable people in self-isolation, given that the government is advising people who have returned from badly affected coronavirus areas to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. There could be disruption further down the line if illness affects delivery drivers and other staff, but retailers have pledged to manage this as best they can.
What should I do if I have a holiday booked to Italy in the summer?
Foreign Office advice on the situation in Italy is regularly updating, but the travel trade association Abta warned on Monday that UK holidaymakers who had booked summer trips to the country faced losing money if they wanted to cancel now because of the coronavirus. It said people who had paid for package holidays not due to begin in the next few days would need to wait to see if the situation changed.
While trips beginning immediately should be covered, Abta said it was too early to say that summer holidays could not go ahead as planned. “If you cancel early you may have to pay cancellation charges,” it added.
How do I check the latest travel advice?
The government’s outbound guidance could be crucial for many trips – not least because airlines may cancel flights, or at the least travel insurance could be invalidated. When the government advises against all but essential travel, that means airlines and bonded holiday firms are usually obliged to refund bookings to that destination.
The key page for British citizens is the Foreign Office travel advice page; for Australians, the Smart Traveller site; and for the US, the State Department page. Abta also provides further advice for holidaymakers.
Can I expect to see cheap flights pop up?
There are bargains to be had on some routes due to plummeting demand – London to New York on British Airways is available for £244 return this month, for example, roughly 20% below average and 10% cheaper than recently promoted discount fares.
Flights to short-haul European destinations are always cheap this time of year – the kind of fares seen on budget carriers to coronavirus-hit Italy aren’t noticeably different from elsewhere.
Airlines have also cut capacity to match supply to tumbling demand, meaning that flights may not yet see rock-bottom prices – even if a lot of paying passengers continue to decide not to turn up. The real test will be whether Easter and summer fares tumble too.
What about travelling within the UK?
Transport authorities are following Public Health England advice and have said that they do not expect to see public transport closed, and that the risk of contagion is no greater on trains or buses than in any public space. The bigger threat to services for which Transport for London and others are planning is any outbreak among crucial employees who are unable to self-isolate or work from home – not least drivers, crew and other frontline staff.
What about sport? What big sporting fixtures are under threat?
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport held a much trailed meeting with sporting bodies and broadcasters on Monday. It doesn’t seem to have changed much. “Based upon the current scientific advice from the government’s medical experts, there is no rationale to close or cancel sporting events as things stand,” a spokesperson for the department said.
That means the Cheltenham festival goes ahead this week and Premier League matches will be played in front of paying crowds. The Six Nations rugby fixture between Wales and Scotland will also take place, in contrast to France against Ireland and Italy against England, which have been postponed.
Will this position change?
Almost certainly. It appears government is reluctant to cancel events unless necessary, perhaps understandable given the amount of interest and revenue attached to UK sport. The UK’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has also downplayed the value in shutting down large gatherings. But while countries across the world are either cancelling events or playing them behind closed doors, and with the spread of the virus expected to accelerate, pressure will mount on UK bodies to soon follow suit.
Will I be able to watch matches played behind closed doors?
All eyes here are on the Premier League. The UK’s most popular competition is determined to keep the show on the road, but increasingly those within football expect some matches to be driven behind closed doors. If that happens, there have been widely reported suggestions that every match would then be shown on TV, breaking a decades-old understanding that Saturday 3pm matches could not be broadcast live. it is understood that those games would only be available on pay-TV, however, through partners Sky and BT Sport. You would need a subscription to watch.
Is it true that older people could be banned from football?
This was one rather unexpected line that was briefed ahead of the meeting, with Crystal Palace’s 72-year-old manager, Roy Hodgson, subsequently wondering what it might mean for him. In the official summary of Monday’s meeting, however, the proposal was not mentioned.
What’s the latest on theatres, cinemas and festivals?
Britain’s leading theatres are remaining open for now. The National Theatre and Leeds Playhouse are both going ahead with shows as planned, for example, while the Society of London Theatres – which represents the West End – said: “Official advice states that there is currently no clear rationale to cancel events.”
Glastonbury festival currently says it “continues to plan and prepare” for the event scheduled for 24-28 June. The Association of Independent Festivals, representing 50 UK events including Victorious, Boomtown, Field Day and Liverpool Sound City, said “there is no rationale” to cancel events yet. Its chief executive, Paul Reed, added: “We appreciate that public health advice can change from hour to hour. Our members will adapt accordingly.”
Meanwhile, organisers of the Cannes film festival – scheduled to begin in two months – say they are still working as normal even though public gatherings of more than 1,000 are banned in France indefinitely. The SXSW festival was cancelled on Saturday.
Will festivalgoers be covered if events are cancelled?
Ticket holders will be entitled to refunds if events are cancelled, though these payouts could seriously harm festivals without insurance cover for communicable disease. Michael Rawlings, underwriting manager at Event Insurance Services, told the Guardian that “very few people would have had the foresight” to add on the specialist cover.