Advice regarding the corona virus pandemic


What do you do when your flight is cancelled? And what about the holiday trip you booked? Check our tips and advice.

Information in Norwegian

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.

Institute of Public HealthMinistry of Foreign Affairs

Help making a complaint

You should complain to the seller if you don’t get what you’ve paid for. The law does not stipulate what a complaint should look like, but we recommend the following:

  • Complain as quickly as possible
  • Put your complaint in writing
  • Be objective

A written complaint could take the form of an email, a contact form or a post on social media. Remember to keep a copy of your complaint either in a digital outbox or as a screenshot. If you’re submitting your complaint by post, we also recommend that you make a photocopy of it.

In the current coronavirus pandemic many businesses are making it difficult for consumers to file complaints or demand what they’re entitled to. The aviation industry in particular has created complex complaint forms that push their preferred resolutions to cancelled flights.

We recommend that you use the complaint channels set up by the seller whenever possible, but do take care not to inadvertently accept a deal you do not want.

If these channels fail to yield a result, you can call customer services, try complaining on social media or, as a last resort, send an old-fashioned letter. In a few cases you might be able to find an email address you can use, although this is very rare at the moment.

If the seller fails to respond to your complaint, you should send them a reminder after a couple of weeks. If you still haven’t heard from them, you can file a complaint with the appropriate complaints board or claim your money back from your credit or debit card company.

Money-back guarantees, exchange policies etc

Many retailers offer money-back guarantees, exchanges and other customer benefits that they’re not obliged to offer under the law. However, during the coronavirus pandemic many retailers have withdrawn these benefits.

Remember to double-check that the seller still offers such guarantees before making a purchase. If in doubt, contact the shop before you buy.

Any changes made by the retailer will not affect existing agreements entered into at the time the customer benefits were still being offered.

Flights

If your flight is cancelled, you can either get a refund for the part of the ticket you haven’t used, or you can rebook your flight for a later date. This applies regardless of the reason for the cancellation. The airlines are not at liberty to ignore these consumer rights.

They often leave it until just before the departure date to cancel, which means you just have to sit tight until they do. If the airline fails to respond to your claim for a refund or they reject your claim, you can contact your card issuer (usually your bank) and claim a refund from them. Read more about this right and how to proceed (link).

Many airlines offer credit notes and air miles when they cancel a flight. You are free to accept them or to demand your money back. If you accept, you are in essence giving an unsecured loan to the airline – with the uncertainty that brings. On a general basis we recommend asking for your money back.

In normal circumstances you’re entitled to compensation if your flight is cancelled. If the reason for the cancellation is extraordinary, such as coronavirus and closed borders, your entitlement to compensation no longer applies. Check your rights with our flight calculator.

Bankruptcies

There is still a risk of bankruptcies in the aviation industry, and if your airline goes bankrupt, you have little chance of getting your money back. You can make a claim to the administrators, but you will often find yourself right at the back of the queue.

If you used a credit card to pay for your flight, you can make the same claim to the credit provider as you would have made to the airline. Standard debit cards from Visa and MasterCard offer the same protections as credit cards. Your credit provider is not obliged to find you tickets to travel home and is only responsible for any potential financial loss limited upwards to the amount you paid on credit.

The vast majority of travel insurance policies do not cover losses resulting from bankruptcy.

Travel insurance

In principle travel insurance plans do not cover fear of infection, but they do cover cancellation if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against travelling to a country.

In principle you must have suffered a financial loss before you can claim on your insurance. This means that you must have lost money before you can file a claim with your insurer. However, in some key areas this is just a general principle. The following examples require the event to be covered by your travel insurance.

Flights

If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, you’re entitled to receive the amount the airline does not refund. In practice this is the price of the ticket – less taxes and charges, which you will get back from the airline.

If the airline cancels your ticket, they must refund you the full amount. Consequently, you have not suffered a loss that will be covered by your insurance. This principle also applies if the airline is taking a long time to refund you.

If you have accepted a credit note or air miles for a cancelled flight, you must contact your insurer to find out how that might affect you.

Hotel accommodation

If you’re unable to use your hotel booking, you should check the hotel’s terms and conditions. If you’ve booked non-refundable accommodation, you’re generally speaking not entitled to a reimbursement from the hotel. If the hotel has to close so that you can’t use your booking, the rule of thumb is that you can claim a refund of the cost of the hotel booking.

Your travel insurance should in principle cover the cost of non-refundable hotel accommodation that cannot be used due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Refund of package holiday in the event of cancellation

A temporary regulation which extends the time by which package holiday companies must refund customers in the event of a cancellation from 14 days to 3 months came into force on 26 April. The regulation means that the travel operator has 3 months to refund the purchase cost of package holidays cancelled in the period 1 March to 14 June. The start date of the 3-month period is the date the holiday was cancelled.

If the operator goes bankrupt, you can claim a refund of what you paid for the holiday from the Norwegian Travel Guarantee Fund. Apply for a refund here (link: https://reisegarantifondet.no/claim/). The fund will make payment within 14 days after receiving all the necessary documentation. In the event of big and numerous bankruptcies it may take a little longer.

Cancelled events

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.

Cabin rentals

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.

Fitness centers

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.

Gift cards and credit notes

Many people have gift cards and credit notes that expire at a time when many businesses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. If this is the case with you, you should contact the company and ask them to extend the gift card or credit note for as long as the closure persists. We advise you to do so in good time before the expiry date.

The Consumer Council is aware that many businesses are already offering extensions. We would still advise anyone with a gift card or credit note to contact the business to clarify the expiry date.

If the company goes bankrupt, any claim for a refund of the value of the card/note must be filed with the administrators. It is generally unlikely that such claims will be paid. Please note that gift cards and credit notes can’t be used in a bankruptcy sale even if it takes place in the same premises that the shop originally occupied.

Didn’t receive a product or service because the seller has gone bankrupt?

The district court can open bankruptcy proceedings when petitioned by the company itself or by a creditor. You can search for the specific company name here.

Administrators will have been appointed if bankruptcy proceedings are underway, and you should direct your claim to them. There is often little to be gained by ordinary consumers when a company goes bankrupt.

A company may opt to wind itself up and, unlike bankruptcy, this means that the firm has sufficient assets to cover its ongoing liabilities. If you’ve been told that the company is winding up, you should address your claim to the company by email, for instance.

If you paid for the product or service with a credit card, you can direct your claim to your credit card provider using a so-called chargeback procedure. Your credit card provider is the bank or financial institution that gave you credit by issuing a credit card to you. Many debit cards also offer the same protections.

If you’ve purchased a faulty product and the seller has gone bankrupt, you should try to direct your claim to the manufacturer of the product. If it’s a manufacturing defect, you can in some cases file your claim with the importer or manufacturer.

Check if you can direct a claim against your bank

If you have purchased a product or service with a credit card, you can complain to your bank if the seller does not fulfil their promises. With the use of card warranty, the bank will refund the amount that you are entitled to, if you  cannot receive your claim from the seller. This right applies to all credit cards, according to finansavtaleloven § 54b.

To receive your money back you must have done the following:

  • Paid with a credit card
  • Purchased from a business
  • You must have a monetary claim
  • You must have directed a complaint at the seller/service-provider

It is important that you do not wait for too long to contact your bank. We recommend that you give the seller a couple of weeks to process your complaint. If you do not hear anything, or if your complaint is rejected, you should contact your bank.

When using a debit card 

Both Visa and MasterCard have equivalent rights in their card agreements. Therefore, you can direct complaints to your bank for products and services purchased with ordinary debit cards.

For debit cards, the banks often have short deadlines for complaints, so it is important that you contact your bank as soon as you suspect that something is wrong.