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TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

This BritRail pass refund request has gone off the rails

Q. I bought a fully refundable BritRail pass, which gives you the ability to travel across the entire national rail network of Great Britain, for a trip last spring. I had to cancel my vacation after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the terms of my purchase, I could get a full refund if I was within 11 months of my purchase date (which I was). I asked my travel agent for a refund. A representative said that the company was experiencing delays and suggested that I call back in a few weeks. I did.

Despite repeated assurances that I would receive a refund, I have not. I understand the reason why there might have been some delays. But it’s been three months since the agency has returned to full staffing and six months since my original request. Processing a refund is hardly a complicated process. Can you help me get my $244 back?

STEPHEN WILKES, Chagrin Falls, Ohio

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A. Wow, your BritRail refund request really went off the rails. Of course, your travel agent should have processed a quick refund. So why didn’t it?

First, you are absolutely correct. Under the terms of your purchase, you should be able to get a full refund. BritRail notes that it will refund your purchase if “the unvalidated Pass or original exchange coupon or voucher is returned to the office from which it was purchased within 11 months from the date of issue (unless a different time period is specified by your travel agent). Passes or tickets must bear no evidence of having been tampered with in any way.”

You definitely qualified. But you made your purchase through ACPRail International, a travel agency that specializes in air/rail bookings. So, as you already noted, you had to wait for the agency to return to its offices after the outbreak. But then the agency had to ask BritRail to return your money. And it, too, was experiencing a slowdown — everyone was.

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I think you could have appealed this first to the agency and then to BritRail. Our research team could have helped you find the right person at both companies. (Our services are free.)

If neither of the parties responded, you could have disputed your credit card charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Your bank should have processed a swift refund.

If it’s any consolation, a lot of people are experiencing similar delays. And you’re correct — processing a refund isn’t complicated and there should be a better way. If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s that there’s room for improving the refund process. Lots of room.

I contacted ACPRail International on your behalf. It finally refunded your purchase eight months after you returned your BritRail passes. Better late than never.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.