Over the past several months, NBC10 Boston Responds has heard from families in several school districts fighting to get their money back for student trips that were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, Glen Mair told us his son and other Nashoba Regional classmates had paid $3,600 for a canceled trip to Italy, and they couldn't get a full refund.
“It's a big hit to all the families, and it's a bigger hit to the kids that paid for the trip themselves,” Mair said.
The trips were booked through Massachusetts-based EF Educational Tours, which specializes in student travel. The company offered three options: travel vouchers they could use within two years, the ability to transfer vouchers to another family or student or a refund, minus a cancellation fee of $1,000.
Christina Hurni, of Plaistow, New Hampshire, paid for her daughter Grace's canceled trip to Spain and Portugal.
“We're going to lose $1,000 -- that's a lot of money for us,” said Hurni. “I can see paying 10% for overhead or something, but I just can't see paying 30% of our trip. They say we plan these trips for two years and we're losing our whole season for the next four months, and I understand that. We're all hurting. We're all losing financially, but why am I donating to them?”
NBC Responds has received more than 40 complaints across the country, against both EF Educational Tours' international division and EF Explore America, the domestic travel division.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's office received more than 600 complaints from consumers saying they were dissatisfied with the company's response.
“This is serious money,” said Healey. “Thousands of dollars these families have laid out for these trips.”
Healey announced Thursday that her office has secured more than $1.4 million in additional refunds for thousands of Bay State families whose EF Tours trips were canceled.
“I appreciate the company recognized that it needed to do more than just offer vouchers for future trips, and that wasn't going to be acceptable,” said Healey. “People really needed to have cash back in their pockets and that's what this achieves, not 100%, but very close to.”
Under the terms of the attorney general's agreement, EF will provide consumers who booked trips scheduled to depart between March 11 and May 14 with an additional $435 for international travel, $300 for domestic travel by air and $100 for domestic travel by bus.
In a statement to NBC10 Boston, EF Tours said: "In response to these unprecedented times, we have focused on providing our customers with the best and most flexible rebooking and refund options to protect their investment in our tours…we explained our need to focus on business resilience to ensure that we can deliver our tours for the vast majority of customers who have opted to rebook...we are pleased our collaboration with the Massachusetts Attorney General helped identify a path forward that further supports our current customers as well as our future travelers."
EF Tours confirmed to NBC that the refund policy amendments will be rolled out nationwide on Friday.
Eligible consumers in Massachusetts have until Sept. 30, 2022, to connect with EF Tours and request a refund from the company. To request a refund, consumers who booked international trips through EF’s Educational Tours program should call 800-665-5364 to request a refund. Consumers who booked domestic trips through the EF Explore America tours program should call 888-333-9756 to request a refund.
There is also a class-action lawsuit that has been filed over the company's refund policy.