Parents fighting for refunds of coronavirus cancelled school trips set to file class-action lawsuit

As it became clear in March that COVID-19 was spreading around the world, the Canadian government released travel advisories warning against international travel, something that sent many travellers scrambling to cancel trips.

Among those being cancelled were hundreds of international trips for high school students over the March break.

Jeff Keizer’s daughter is among those affected. She attends Park View Education Centre and was supposed to head to France and Spain for spring break through a trip organized by Explorica.

But the trip was cancelled by the South Shore Regional Centre for Education a week before departure.

“At the beginning, there was no issue. The insurance company and the Explorica company identified we would see our refunds within eight to 10 weeks,” said Keizer.

That never happened, and now, seven months after the trip was cancelled, Keizer and many other families are still fighting for the refund they’re owed.

According to Explorica’s Insurance Policy through TripMate, customers are covered if the trip is cancelled by the school board if the board determines there is a risk of harm to an event directly affecting the destination.

But the complication is that the company uses underwriters for insurance. In this instance, their underwriter is Old Republic Insurance, but the company also uses Archer Insurance, and so far neither company is paying out insurance claims.

“Both the insurance companies are identifying that they have not received all information they need to process the claim,” said Keizer.

“Explorica won’t volunteer any more information and the insurance companies won’t process the claim until they receive the information, so we’re in a stalemate.”

Keizer and other Park View Education Centre parents are not alone in experiencing this.

A Facebook group has been created for anyone across the country dealing with the issue. The group has already identified 160 schools where trips were cancelled and families haven’t received a refund.

“Our trip was $4,000, some trips were as high as $8,000,” said Keizer.

“We’re talking about $15 to $16 million that is owing to all these families.”

The group of parents is now working with Curtis Dawe Lawyers in St. John’s to file a class-action lawsuit against all three companies — Explorica, Old Republic Insurance and Arch Insurance.

“Right now the companies are pointing the fingers at one another and the parents and students are caught in between,” said Travis Payne, a lawyer with the firm.

“It is our position that refunds should be issued and any dispute between companies should be dealt with afterwards.”

Global News requested an interview with each of the three companies, but neither of the insurance companies responded.

No one from Explorica was made available for an interview but in an emailed response, the company claims the insurance providers are trying to “use the unique circumstances around COVID-19 to redefine their rights and obligations under these travel policies and shift the losses of this pandemic back onto (families).”

Keizer says he’s tired of the blame game and has a simple request for the three companies involved: “Leave the parents out of this internal fight and give us our money back.”

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