How to get money back when a trip turns toxic

Air Canada Vacations turned down a claim by an older couple, who flew home from Cuba after finding their hotel was overbooked. It appealed the couple’s win in small claims court and had the decision reversed in a higher court, saddling them with $9,500 in legal costs.

My column surprised and shocked many readers, who thought tour operators had to give refunds to clients if they couldn’t fulfill their promises. In a follow-up today, I said there actually was such an obligation under Ontario’s Travel Industries Act.

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) is trying to raise its profile, using videos to drive home the message that you can get refunds for services paid for and not received.

TICO can help you pursue your travel complaints, though it has no power to resolve them.

I handle many travel complaints and I find that most companies don’t give money back easily. They offer a small discount on a future trip, and if you fight back, they offer a larger discount. They want you to come back for another holiday.

But if you had a bad experience, the last thing on your mind is dealing with the same company again. The result: Your voucher for a future trip may not be used. Or it may expire, since there’s usually a one-year deadline.

I’m posting advice below from people who travel all the time. They have some ideas on what to do when a tour operator or travel agent lets you down.

Legal system failing middle class in Canada

Many people sent me their heart-wrenching stories in response to my column about the lack of access to legal services by middle-income earners. I’m posting a few below.

Even many low-income people are badly served by Legal Aid, which won’t pay for routine family law and consumer cases.

Here’s a link to the book that sparked the controversy and talks about how to broaden access to justice.

I also want to mention that Financial Literacy Month is going ahead again in November.

As part of the national events, I’ll be doing my Ryerson workshop, Financial Basics, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Chang School on Victoria St., Toronto.

The session is free and comes with a great workbook. You can register here or you can just show up on the date.

You can find more about the Financial Basics workshop and order materials at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s website.

Rob Carrick, the Globe and Mail’s personal finance columnist, wrote about the 12 taboo topics during Financial Literacy Month. Here’s a link to that column, which may disappear once the Globe puts up its pay wall next week.