Olympic Heights High School In Boca, Students Nationwide Stuck In What Many Call “Scam.”
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — EF Tours, the Massachusetts-based tour company that is refusing to refund fees to students in Boca Raton — and nationwide — is still holding firm in its position that it has no obligation to give money back.
Students at Olympics Heights High School in Boca — and schools nationwide — were set to embark upon European tours in late May or early June. Despite the COVID-19 shutdown of the world, EF is refusing to refund thousands of dollars that each student paid, instead saying that the money must be applied to a future trip.
For families still demanding funds, EF is assessing a $1000 service fee.
EF claims that it can’t get money back for prepaid airfare and hotels, even though seemingly every airline and hotel chain is offering refunds to all travelers booked over the next several months.
BocaNewsNow.com has heard from attorneys who may be preparing to take legal action against EF. In the meantime, anyone who paid by credit card is advised to initiate a charge-back of all fees paid to EF. While there are no guarantees, it is more likely than not that your credit card company will take your side, refund money you’ve paid, and fine EF for playing hardball.
This phone call, provided to BocaNewsNow.com, is between a parent and EF Tours.
Here is the latest statement posted by EF.
Updated April 10, 2020
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt around the world, here’s what you should know as a member of our EF family: We have brought all EF groups traveling internationally and within North America home. We are postponing any tour that was scheduled to depart in March, April, and May, and we are committed to offering groups with later departure dates flexible options should they be necessary. We are closely monitoring the situation with guidance from the U.S. Department of State, and other relevant U.S. and international authorities.
This is a difficult situation for everyone, but the health and safety of our travelers and staff is our top priority. EF has been leading the educational travel industry for 55 years, and we will continue to lead today, tomorrow, and in the coming months and years. We thank you for your patience in these unprecedented times. Please know that we’re here to support you, and, even though travel feels uncertain right now, we look forward to working together to ensure that seeing the world remains a possibility.
Given this unprecedented situation, we have some exceptions to our Peace of Mind program. These changes now provide enhanced options for groups and individuals.
1. Our group was supposed to travel in the next few weeks, but our tour was postponed. What happens now?
To make the process as easy as possible, all individuals that were scheduled to travel in March, April, or May of this year will now automatically receive an electronic Future Travel Voucher on their account for the full amount they paid (including all non-refundable payments), which is valid to use through September 30, 2022.
Your Group Leader can take advantage of the following enhanced Peace of Mind options on behalf of the group:
- Move your existing tour to a new date
- If your group chooses to simply move the existing tour to a new date, there is nothing you need to do. We will automatically enroll students on the new tour and apply your voucher. This will allow everyone in your group to rebook to the new date easily. To better support you, we have made the decision to honor your current tour price for any rescheduled date through 2021, so there will be no additional costs to move the tour.
- Choose a new tour and new date
- If your group decides to choose a new itinerary to travel on at a later date, we will simply enroll you on the new tour and apply your voucher.
- Choose to take Future Travel Vouchers for the entire group
- We understand that it might be difficult to make plans for a future tour at this time. Therefore, your Group Leader can elect for the group to just receive the electronic Future Travel Vouchers that you can apply once your tour can be rescheduled or for you to be able to use on one of our other EF travel programs.
- Vouchers may also be redeemed for a refund of all monies paid to EF, less $1,000.
- For the full list of your redemption options, visit our Future Travel Voucher website.
- There is no need to make any decisions now, as your voucher is valid through September 30, 2022.
Additionally, we have enhanced our Peace of Mind Program to provide the option for individuals to receive a Future Travel Voucher. If an individual cannot join their group’s rebooked tour, they can elect to receive a Future Travel Voucher that comes with all of the same options listed above by calling 800-665-5364.
Click here for frequently asked questions about our Future Travel Vouchers.
2. What should I do if my group has not yet rescheduled our tour?
Rest assured, there is nothing you need to do now. Given the circumstances, it may take your Group Leader some time to work through the details of setting up a new tour. We have your Future Travel Voucher on file and recommend you stay in communication with your Group Leader on next steps.
3. My group is scheduled to travel after May 31. Are we still going?
Given the evolving nature of the situation, our safety teams around the world continue to assess matters on a daily basis. At this time, we have only postponed trips through the end of May. For tours departing on June 1 or later, we will continue to update your Group Leader and this page in the coming weeks as new information becomes available. EF will not resume tour operations until we receive updated guidance from the U.S. Department of State and feel confident that our travelers will be able to fully enjoy the immersive, culturally rich experiences that we pride ourselves on delivering. As a reminder, your group also has all of our Peace of Mind options available to them (as listed above) if you would like to proactively reschedule your tour and/or elect to receive Future Travel Vouchers. In an effort to provide you with additional time to make a decision, cancellation fees will not change through May 15. We recommend that you stay in contact with your Group Leader for the most up-to-date information regarding your tour.
4. What is an EF Future Travel Voucher?
As an additional measure in response to the COVID-19 situation, we have amended the terms of our Future Travel Vouchers for all travelers who were scheduled to travel in 2020. A Future Travel Voucher is issued electronically in the amount of all monies paid to EF. Future Travel Vouchers may be used toward a travel program with a variety of EF products or it may be redeemed for a cash refund of all monies paid to EF, less $1,000. Future Travel Vouchers may be resold and are transferable to immediate family members and to students or faculty in the same school district as the traveler to which they are issued. Your Future Travel Voucher is valid through September 30, 2022—so you do not need to make any decisions on how to use it at this time. To view complete details on all of the ways to redeem your voucher, visit our Future Travel Voucher website.
5. What are my refund options?
We know that the decision to travel in the next few months is a very personal one. That’s why we have amended our policies so that you can elect to take a Future Travel Voucher even if your group is currently continuing to travel as planned. Taking a Future Travel Voucher instead of canceling allows you to protect your full investment and travel at a later date that works for you—giving you the option to use the voucher on a variety of EF programs. In addition, Future Travel Vouchers can also be redeemed for all of your monies paid to EF, less $1,000, which for many people is more advantageous than their current cancellation fees.
For groups travelling on June 1 or later, we made the decision several weeks ago to “freeze” cancellation fees, meaning that the cancellation fee bracket you were in as of February 24 would not change until May 15 to allow you more time to make a decision.
6. Why can’t I get all my money back?
We begin planning your tour as soon as you enroll, to ensure the highest quality service at the lowest price. For example, EF Educational Tours books large volumes of flights, hotels and entrances months, if not years, in advance. Many of these at a group booking level which is subject to different cancellation rules than typical consumers. For this reason, EF has designed its cancellation policies to take into consideration the investments we make in your tour long before it departs. Currently we are in an unprecedented situation that is affecting everyone across the globe. As such we have made adjustments to our standard policies to provide expanded options to our groups during this time.
In addition to freezing our cancellation fees so that they do not increase through May 15th, we are also offering very flexible rebooking options, holding pricing through 2021 for any of our groups that want to move their tour to a later date and making an exception by offering Future Travel Vouchers to any individual traveler who cannot travel on their group’s future tour. We have also now made the vouchers even more valuable – Future Travel Vouchers will now be issued for all monies paid to EF including all non-refundables. Additionally, travelers may now redeem their Future Travel Voucher for a refund of all monies paid to EF minus $1,000. This amount allows us to only partially cover costs related to non-recoverable payments to our suppliers, our staff, and the investment we continue to make in itinerary, date and destination flexibility.
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