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COVID-19 Information for Consumers

COVID-19 Information for Consumers

The current pandemic has many implications for consumers and businesses alike. This page is a guide for both consumers and business to understand their rights and obligations.

It is important to remember that consumer protection legislation has not changed. A consumer's right to a remedy under the law remains in place. For more information about consumer guarantees for goods, see Consumer Guarantees.

Statutory guarantees also apply to the provision of services, which must be supplied with due care and skill, and be fit for a purpose made known to the supplier. If the supplier cannot provide the service, the guarantees are unlikely to apply. For more information about consumer guarantees for services, visit Statutory Guarantees.

More detailed information about particular situations for both consumer and business is available on the ACCC website and the Consumer and Business Services website [links will open in new window].

Common Consumer Problems

Events

New rules exist for patrons attending live events, including theatre performances, live music and private gatherings. This may include the requirement to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination for public events, or restrictions on the number of people permitted to gather in once place. Check the venue terms and conditions carefully prior to booking. For more information about these restrictions please visit the South Australian Government COVID-19 website [link opens new window]

Promoters should be clear about refund rights if an event is cancelled due to an outbreak. When booking, it is important to check the terms and conditions to ensure that either a ticket can be transferred to a future event or refunded on request. For more information about contract terms and consumer rights, please visit the ACCC website [link opens new window].

Ongoing services

Subscription services such as a gym membership, dance studio or other in-person activities may face temporary restriction or closure in the event of an outbreak. If a business cannot provide a service, it cannot continue to charge its patrons.

Change of Mind

A supplier is not required to provide a refund if the consumer pays for a service but wishes to cancel before receiving it, unless by prior agreement. For example, a consumer books a winery tour but wants to cancel the day before due to a possible health risk. If the terms of booking are clear that no refunds will be given for cancellations at short notice, the business can refuse the refund.

However, if there is no provision for refunds, a business should take care not to keep more than a reasonable estimate of its loss. If the business cannot fill the spot with another person at late notice, the loss may be the full amount paid.

Travel and Accommodation

The pandemic continues to disrupt interstate and international travel even though borders are beginning to reopen. Consumers should check with the provider before booking travel to confirm the effect of a sudden border closure or lockdown on the service provided.

The pandemic offers an opportunity to travel providers to make booking terms and conditions clear and easy to find. Doing so benefits both providers and consumers. The Australian Consumer Law prohibits unfair contract terms in standard form contracts, although only a court can declare a contract term to be unfair. For more information, visit the Law Handbook section on Unfair Contract Terms.

At law, a contract that is cancelled because of government restrictions out of the control of either party may be ‘frustrated’. The provisions of the Frustrated Contracts Act 1988 (SA) may then apply. The pandemic is now known to affect plans, and parties who do not address the possibility of travel plans being cancelled are less likely to be able to complain about frustration.

Cancelling travel plans as a precautionary measure, or in anticipation of a lockdown or border closure may result in loss of a deposit or payment for travel. If the provider cancels the trip, all money paid should be refunded or a credit offered for a future date. Insurance companies are now selling travel insurance with limited cover for COVID-19 related events. Be careful and check the limits of the cover because not all policies cover all situations or countries. For more information visit the Law Handbook section on Insurance.

Scams

Scammers are using the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to take advantage of people across Australia. Please visit the Australian Government Scamwatch website [link opens new window] for current information about some of the latest scams being reported.

See also the Law Handbook section on Scams.

COVID-19 Information for Consumers  :  Last Revised: Tue Nov 23rd 2021
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.