Consumer rights still apply, and must of course be respected even though we are all in a difficult situation.
On a daily basis, consumers experience that agreements they have entered into are not honoured, cancelled, or postponed. It is increasingly difficult to have an overview over what rules apply, and how these should be understood in light of the corona-epidemic.
The Consumer Council expects that industry actors respect fundamental consumer rights – not least those businesses that are now receiving considerable public monetary support. Applicable laws and rules must be respected.
Consumer rights exist to protect people in difficult situations, and these rights are not quarantined. Fundamental consumer rights can, more or less, be applied as normal, also in an extraordinary situation.
This includes that:
- agreements must be honoured,
- perfomance assumes performance, and
- all information given to consumers must be correct.
Keep updated about advice and requests from the government.
Problems with payments and collection agencies
As far as it is possible, you should pay your loan payments as usual. Contact your bank if you have difficulties administering your payments. This also applies to consumer loans. Banks have routines for postponing payments of loans, and the authorities have made the banks capable of accommodating their customers.
If it becomes difficult to pay your bills, you should contact your debtors. It is not uncommon that debtors accept postponements, or to divide the debt into several payments. This also applies to collection agencies. You should contact the collection agency as soon as possible if you have difficulties paying the collection notice. They may help you by creating a payment plan.
Rights before airline travel
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is discouraging all international travel. This means that you should not make any travel plans for the time being. Border inspection has been instituted, and Norwegians situated abroad are asked to stay updated and follow the advice of the authorities. If you have already booked a trip, your travel insurance will normally cover cancellations of flights to countries that the authorities have discouraged travelling to.
As a general rule, you cannot cancel a plane ticket, unless the terms and conditions say otherwise. However, many airlines offer travelers to rebook their flights for another time, even if you have booked tickets without cancellation insurance. Go to the website of the airline for more information. In all cases, if you choose not to travel, you have the right to receive refunds of all taxes and fees.
You can try to engage in a dialogue with the hotel or airline company. Ask if it is possible to postpone your hotel stay or travel until the situation has settled. Be aware that travel operators and airlines are currently under high demand, and therefore you have to estimate significant waiting time for a response.
If you have booked a traditional package holiday, you can cancel and receive a refund if the trip is to a place that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have discouraged travels to. Traditional package holidays also give you the right to cancel for a fee. The cancellation fee will increase as the time of the trip draws nearer.
As a general rule, travel insurances do not cover the fear of contamination, but will cover cancellation fees if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have discouraged entry to the country. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, many insurance companies have opened for covering cancellations to the most exposed countries. We recommend that you check with your travel insurance company to see what they offer. All these companies have information on their websites, so we recommend that you visit the websites before you directly contact the companies.
Cancelled flights and hotel bookings
If your flight is cancelled, you have the choice between refunding the ticket price for the part of your journey that you cannot make, or a rerouting. This applies regardless of why the flight was cancelled.
Many companies offer vouchers or cashpoints upon cancellation of bookings. You can choose to accept this, or make use of the abovementioned rights. If you accept such an offer, in practice you are giving a unsecured loan to the company, with the uncertainties that this includes.
Companies often postpone cancellations until close to the departure date, which means that consumers need to be patient. As a partial solution, if your trip is covered in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ advice against non-essential international travels, you can submit a claim to your travel insurance company. This general advice applies until April 14th.
Under normal circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation if your flight is cancelled. If the reason for the cancellation is extraordinary circumstances, the right to compensation does not apply. The coronavirus pandemic and closed borders are examples of extraordinary circumstances, and therefore the right to compensation does not apply. You can check your rights through our flight rights tool.
If you cannot use your hotel booking, you should look at the terms of service agreement that you have entered into with the hotel. If you have booked a stay with no right to cancellation, you do not normally have the right to a refund. If the hotel is closed so that you cannot use the booking, you can generally demand compensation for the price of the hotel stay.
If you are currently traveling
If you are placed in quarantine at your vacation spot, most travel insurances will cover hotel stays and the cost of the return trip. You should also check your travel insurance if you are unable to get home, or if you have other expenses regarding the corona virus pandemic.
NB! If you disregard the travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, several insurance companies have reported that you will not be covered by your insurance during your stay.
What happens if the airline goes bankrupt?
You have few rights if the airline goes bankrupt. You can file a claim against the bankruptcy estate, but it is unlikely that this will succeed. A company filing for bankruptcy cannot manage their running expenses, and often have higher debt than assets.
The settlement in a bankruptcy has different priorities, where the government and creditors with collateral security are prioritized. A consumer with normal monetary claims will usually be at the back of the line, and the chances for a cash settlement are usually very low.
If you paid for your airline travel with a credit card, you can direct equivalent claims toward the credit provider that you would normally direct to the airline company. The credit provider does not have an obligation to provide return tickets, and is only responsible for any financial losses. A number of debit cards have the same coverage as credit cards through their card agreement.
Most travel insurances do not cover losses as a result of a bankruptcy.
If you are travelling when the bankruptcy occurs, you have to take the responsibility and costs for your return yourself. The current crisis situation makes the field complex and difficult to understand, and it is impossible to predict whether rules will be temporarily changed, or whether additional measures will be put into effect. Therefore, the most important advice is to keep yourself updated about any information from Norwegian authorities.
Follow the news, and keep updated through the websites of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the case of package holidays, the travel provider is responsible for assuring your return trip, and they must find another company that is able to fly the passengers home. If the package holiday provider files for bankruptcy, the Travel Guarantee Fund will cover your expenses.
If an event is cancelled because of the corona virus, your rights will vary. Many larger event organizers have terms that reserve them the right to not provide ticket refunds if the reason for the cancellation is a situation beyond their control. The corona virus is regarded as being beyond the control of the event organizer. Other organizers do not reserve this right, and in that case you are entitled to a ticket refund.
Therefore, you have to look at the terms of service for your purchase, usually on the organizer website, to see if you have a right to refund the event ticket. In some cases, the organizer will offer to postpone the event. For many consumers, this can be a good alternative, and we recommend that you consider this.
You are not entitled to compensation for other expenses related to the event, such as travel and transport to the event, if the corona virus is the reason for the cancellation. This applies regardless of what the terms of service state.
Many people are asking about what happens to cabin rentals if the cabin cannot be used.
Rights and duties follow from the contract between you and the landlord. The basis is that you have the right to access the cabin, while the landlord has the right to receive rent.
If you entered a rental agreement before the official restrictions went into place, you may be entitled to a full or partial refund of the rental fee. If the preconditions for the agreement changes significantly after being signed, it may be unfair that you as a consumer are left with the entire expenditure. This applies regardless of what is written in the rental agreement.
It is uncertain whether you are entitled to a full or partial refund. It is easier to succeed in a claim against a professional renter than if you have rented a cabin from another private individual.
Our recommendation is that you and the renter agree on a solution that you can both accept. This may be splitting the rental fee, or that you commit to use the cabin at a later date for the same fee that you paid for the original rental. You might want to attempt to find an amicable solution, seeing as the current situation is unprecedented.
If you are unable to find a solution together with the landlord, you should look at what you are covered for through your insurance company. Look at the information on the insurance company website before contacting them directly.
All fitness centers have been forced to close because of contamination control measures in week 12. Many consumers have active memberships, and some of these subscriptions are binding.
As a general rule, you should not have to pay for your membership in the period that the center is closed. If you have already paid for a month when the center is partially or fully closed, this may typically be subtracted from the first invoice when the center reopens. If you choose to end your membership, the days when the center was closed should be refunded to you.
If you have a binding membership subscription, the subscription period will be frozen while the center is closed. When the center reopens, the membership will continue as normal. If the closure lasts for several months, you will have the right to end the subscription despite the binding subscription period.
We are aware that many fitness centers have provided creative solutions to ensure that members continue their subscriptions during the period of centers being closed. This can include digital group sessions, guest memberships for friends, gift cards or vouchers, and direct encouragement to pay full membership fees during the time of closed centers
You can choose whether you want to accept such solutions. In order to maintain some fitness routines, a digital subscription may be relevant for you. In any case, you should be paying a reduced rate for limited services.
Bankruptcy: What if you do not receive your product or service?
The district court (tingretten) can open for bankruptcy upon request from the company itself or from a creditor. In order to find out whether the company has filed for bankruptcy, you can search for the specific company name here.
If the bankruptcy filing is currently being processed, a bankruptcy administrator has been appointed, which you can direct your claim to. There are usually low chances of consumers receiving anything through the bankruptcy proceedings.
A company can choose to cease its operations, and unlike in the case of bankruptcy, this means that the company has sufficient resources to cover its continuing obligations. If you have received notice that the company is in liquidation, you should direct your claim to the company, for example by email.
If you paid for the product or service by credit card, you can direct your claim to the credit company through so called card warranty You can only direct claims for money to the bank. The credit company is the bank or financial institution that granted you credit. A number of debit cards will give you the same rights.
If you have purchased a product that is flawed, and the seller has become bankrupt, you should try to direct your claim toward the manufacturer. If the product has a production flaw, in some cases you can direct the claim toward the importer or manufacturer.
Updated travel information
You will find updated information on the websites of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.