Pandemic bans in tourism are disappearing from the current agenda, but the “season” of courts over covid tours, which began 1.5-2 years ago, is in full swing, lawyers specializing in tourism say. One of such examples – where a tourist filed a lawsuit against a travel agent and a tour operator because of 100,000 rubles in advance payment for a tour to Bali – Alexander Baiborodin, head of the legal company Baiborodin and Partners Lawyers for Tourist Business, told TURPROM. The story ended with two years of litigation, the return of the amount paid to the tourist for the tour according to Decree No. 1073 and the absence of sanctions on the tour operator. Was the game worth the candle – says the expert.
The details are as follows: right before the start of the pandemic, at the beginning of March 2020, a tourist, through the travel agent Valencia Tour LLC, purchased for herself and her daughter an early booking tour to Indonesia, to the island of Bali from July 10 to 24, 2020 at the Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran hotel 5*, double room with breakfast for 262,000 rubles, made an advance payment of 100,000 rubles. And then a notorious disease raged around the world, it became obvious that the tour would not take place.
As Alexander Baiborodin said, the tourist repeatedly tried to get through to the travel agent and get any regulation of actions, but she could not, she turned directly to the tour operator with a request: to terminate the contract, due to the current epidemiological situation and the impossibility of making a trip; return your prepayment for the tour in the amount of 100,000 rubles.
From a telephone conversation between a tour operator and a tourist on 06/03/2020:
– You write that you can’t get through to the travel agency, they don’t pick up the phone there?
— Yes, when I called they didn't pick up the phone.
– Are you ready to consider rescheduling the tour to any other dates, starting from autumn and beyond, with the preservation of the cost, the rate of prepayment and all the parameters of the tour, are we ready to reschedule you to any suitable dates?
— Yes, leave Bali, please, I don’t even know, since my husband turned to lawyers and that means they sent you something without my knowledge. I thought we were going to take a break. Yes, I'd rather take it.
— Maybe then discuss with your family the dates that will be convenient for you?
– As soon as it opens, we are ready, if it is August, then we are ready, with pleasure. I will now call my husband and tell them to cancel all this, we transfer it unambiguously.
It must be said that Valencia Tour LLC has completely withdrawn from the process. All subsequent negotiations with the customer, her husband, lawyer, etc. conducted by the tour operator directly, without the participation of an agent.
“The conversation with the tourist was immediately forgotten, the tour operator did not return the money, because he didn’t understand anything at all: on the one hand, the tourist says “we are waiting for the trip”, on the other hand, “we are filing a lawsuit, return the money”, and the amount has already been transferred to the Indonesian partner and there is confirmation of this. Later, the tourist appealed to the Meshchansky Court of Moscow, designating the tour operator and travel agent Valencia Tour LLC as defendants, the expert continued. The tourist put forward a demand to recover from them:
- an advance payment for the tour in the amount of 100,000 rubles;
- a penalty in the amount of 78,000 rubles;
- moral damage in in the amount of 30,000 rubles;
- court costs in the amount of 33,000 rubles.
Further, Alexander Baiborodin presented the following details of the trial:
- The first meeting took place on 09/29/2020 and did not end with anything good for the tour operator, oddly enough, the already issued Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 1073, which regulates returns and rebookings of tours, was not taken into account, and all the sanctions that the plaintiff demanded were applied. Everything went on appeal. Moreover, an interesting point surfaced that the same judge has another, similar case with the same agent and customer, but a different tour operator. We do not hint at anything, just a fact – information for reflection.
- 30.09.2021 The Court of Appeal canceled the sanctions (compensation for non-pecuniary damage and a fine). They left the prepayment amount and, for some reason, a penalty. The client was dissatisfied, a cassation complaint was drawn up.
- On March 22, 2022, the cassation canceled the appeal ruling and sent the case back to the appeal for a new consideration, the tour operator returned the paid 100,000 rubles to the tourist.
- On May 24, 2022, the Moscow City Court held a final meeting on the cancellation of the penalty against the tour operator. The customer herself was also present in court, which confirmed the receipt of money from the tour operator, and the court canceled the penalty.
“We are on the side of the tour operator. For 2 years, the case went through three instances and returned for a new consideration to the appellate court. The reason for the return was a penalty that was collected from the tour operator (the Court of Cassation considered it unreasonable). By the way, for the first time the court of appeal ruled out all sanctions from the decision, but for some reason forgot about the penalty. The result of our participation was that the recovery from the tour operator was limited to an advance payment made by the tourist and already returned to him, without any fines, penalties and compensation for moral damage, ”summed up Vadim Pogorelov, a lawyer defending the tour operator in this case from the Lawyers for travel business “Bayborodin and Partners”.
For those who care about a healthy lifestyle, we recommend reading: “Scientists have established the exact time of day for burning fat in the gym.”