Miller settles case after European tour canceled due to COVID
DES MOINES ― A Colorado-based travel company will refund $610,430 to 307 Iowans who signed up for a high school band tour of Europe that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Voyageurs International agreed to settle allegations by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office that it violated the Travel Agencies and Agents law, the Iowa Door-to-Door Sales Act, and the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act. The company denied the charges but agreed to the assurance of voluntary compliance.
“The pandemic was unavoidable, and travel companies are not necessarily responsible for refunding all money to customers in such situations,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “However, Voyageurs misled Iowans in how it handled the unexpected event. We appreciate that the company worked with us to return money to Iowans.”
High school band students from across Iowa and the nation had signed up for Voyageurs’ “Ambassadors of Music” tours in 2020. Iowa students paid $6,345 each for the European tour and accompanying adults paid $6,745, while about 40 Iowans paid an additional $2,075-$2,265 for a side trip to Greece.
In mid-March 2020, Voyageurs President Gilford Mahaffy sent a letter to Iowa consumers canceling the 2020 tour because of the pandemic and informing the consumers that they would receive a refund of their contract payment, less $1,900 per the cancellation clause in the contract.
Voyageurs refused the full refund on the representation that the company had paid more than $1,900 to vendors for each student’s trip “that it will not be able to recoup.” In fact, Voyageurs had received partial refunds from some vendors, the AG’s office alleged.
The AG’s office also alleged that the defendants:
failed to register as a travel agency with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office or submitting evidence of financial security to that office;
failed to provide the consumer with a “Notice of Cancellation” drafted with the required form and content under the Iowa Door-to-Door Sales Act and failed to furnish to the consumer two copies of the notice.
The AG’s office is in the process of contacting the affected Iowans and will send them refund checks.