When customers cancel

Bushfire cancellations

A crisis such as a bushfire may cause some guests to postpone or cancel their visit. For example, if a Code Red fire danger rating is issued, the area in which your business is located is not safe to enter. For more information, visit the Total fire bans and ratings section of the CFA website External link

Your rights and obligations will depend on the situation. You and the customer are released from the contract if, for example:

  • The accommodation has been destroyed
  • Access roads have been closed
  • The authorities have advised that the area is not safe to enter

Such instances would trigger a ‘frustrated contract’ under the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012, which means it is impossible to perform or carry out a contract due to events beyond all parties’ control.

In this scenario, the customer would be entitled to a refund of any payments already made. However, the law may also entitle you to any reasonable expenses you incurred before the customer cancelled.

When your cancellation policy applies

A contract is not frustrated if the situation means that it is only inconvenient, difficult or expensive to carry out. For example, if your facility is still open for business but there is a lot of smoke, which may cause your guests discomfort, customers may feel that they won’t be able to do all the things they had planned and so would prefer not to come at all. In this instance, the contract is still valid and if the customer chooses to cancel, you can apply your cancellation policy.

For more information on preparing for bushfires, download the Tourism Business Fire Ready Kit, 2013 (1.3 MB)PDF

Cancellation due to bad weather

Generally, a guest is not entitled to a refund due to poor weather.

You cannot be held responsible for external environmental conditions outside your control such as:

  • No snow on a ski trip
  • Rain during a weekend getaway at the beach
  • Colder weather than expected on a summer camping expedition

Sometimes, however, weather conditions may be integral to the nature of the service being provided and determine whether a contract can be performed. You may wish to address these situations through a specific contractual term or condition detailed within your cancellation policy.

When you cancel bookings

Some crisis situations may force you to contact guests and cancel bookings. For information on this scenario, refer to the When you cancel page

Other cancellation rights

Your guests also have certain rights in the form of consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Essentially, accommodation must be fit for any purpose specified by the customer. If it is not, the guest may be able to cancel the booking and obtain a refund (less any amount for any services already provided), depending on whether the problem with the accommodation is major or cannot be fixed easily or within a reasonable time.

If you make claims about accommodation that you can’t fulfil (for example, if it does not live up to any representations you have made about it), it is an offence under the ACL and you may face penalties for misleading or deceptive conduct. The guest may also have access to a range of other remedies under the ACL.

Case study

A company specialising in running outdoor adventure activities has scheduled a three day hike for a group of tourists in a state park. Temperatures of 40 degrees and over have been forecast across the state for the duration of the hike. The Department of Sustainability and Environment has indicated it will close access to parks in high risk areas, even if a Code Red fire danger rating is not issued.

Given the potential difficulties in relocating the hike to a different state park in these circumstances, the company notifies the hikers that they can choose from a list of alternative camp options; or if this is not suitable, they may cancel and receive a full refund of the purchase cost of the hike.

Last Updated 24th July 2017