Attorney General Ellison secures full refunds for Minnesota students and families harmed by canceled trips
Voyageurs International will pay 344 Minnesota high school students and their families $665,000 to reimburse for questionable “cancellation fees”
January 19, 2021
January 15, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today announced that as part of a settlement with his office, travel company Voyageurs International must pay $664,835 to account for full refunds to 344 Minnesota music students signed up for the company’s 2020 European “Ambassadors of Music” tour. The Assurance of Discontinuance, filed today in Ramsey County District Court, resolves an investigation by Attorney General Ellison’s office into whether the company, which organizes annual tours to Europe for high-school students, fairly and truthfully communicated with and charged fees against participants related to the cancellation of its 2020 tour.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on businesses and consumers alike — but that doesn’t give businesses the right to treat consumers unfairly,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Minnesota students and their families paid hard-earned money for these travel packages. I’m pleased that Voyageurs is finally making things right and refunding them for services they never received. I hope these refunds help repair some of the strain and disappointment they have felt while trying to afford their lives and get through this difficult time.
“The vast majority of Minnesota businesses are doing the right thing by consumers during this emergency. My office will continue to ensure that all businesses deal fairly and truthfully with consumers whose lives the pandemic has upended,” Attorney General Ellison added.
The Attorney General’s Office will contact Minnesotans who participated in the 2020 Ambassadors of Music tour concerning their entitlement to restitution.
Voyageurs is a Colorado-based company that organizes yearly travel tours to Europe for high-school music students and their parents. The company had scheduled tours for the summer of 2020 and charged between $6,345 to $9,010 for arranging and coordinating the trip. Voyageurs unilaterally canceled the trip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon cancellation, however, the company refused to provide consumers a full refund and instead retained a large $1,900 “cancellation fee” for each participant. Though airlines, hotels, and other vendors around the world refunded most consumers and businesses for bookings cancelled due to the pandemic, the company told consumers that the large cancellation fee was necessary because the company “made payments for travel arrangements that [it] w[ould] not be able to recoup.”
The Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into Voyageurs’ dealings with consumers after receiving several dozens of complaints. The complaints described how many students worked hard to earn the money to pay for the trip, only to be left holding the bag once their trips were cancelled through no fault of their own. For example, one Little Falls student was able to pay for her trip from fundraising and earning money on a dairy farm. As a result of the settlement, students like her will receive a full refund. The settlement also requires the company to fully and accurately communicate its refund and cancellation policies, including compensation related to expenses refunded to Voyageurs, to future Minnesota consumers.
This case represents one of the many ways in which the Attorney General’s Office has protected consumers and the public from harm or exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts have included protecting Minnesotans from illegal eviction, so that they can shelter safely in place, as well as pandemic-related price gouging, scams, and wage theft.
Consumers with pandemic-related concerns or complaints can contact the Attorney General’s Office through this dedicated COVID-19 complaint form (available in English, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish) or by calling (651) 296-3353 (Metro area) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).