In the wake of complaints from some consumers about long delays in obtaining refunds for canceled cruises, the Federal Maritime Commission is considering changes to regulations.
When cruise lines ceased operations in March, hundreds of thousands of customers were placed in the position of having paid for services they would not receive. This naturally led cruisers or their travel agents to demand refunds.
While the FMC says “in many cases” these refunds were issued promptly, there were a substantial number of complaints about delays.
At first, Carnival Cruise Line was taking up to 90 days to refund consumers. Customers of other lines, like upscale Crystal Cruises and MSC Cruises, have been waiting up to 180 days to get their money back.
As a result of these complaints, Commissioner Louis E. Sola produced a July report examining cruise line refund policies.
Sola’s Fact Finding 30 Interim Report suggested that existing regulations need to be “clarified and updated.”
“It became apparent early in my work on Fact Finding 30 that existing regulations dealing with carrier non-performance and how passengers are compensated when a ship does not sail needed to be clarified and updated,” Sola said.
Commissioner Sola specifically recommended that the FMC interpret “non-performance of transportation” to include cancelling a sailing or delaying passenger boarding by twenty-four hours or more, and recommended that the Commission change its regulations to make clear how passengers may obtain refunds under a cruise line’s financial instruments in certain circumstances.
In August, the Commission voted to accept Sola’s recommendations and directed agency staff to work towards implementing his proposed regulatory changes.
What Happens Next?
As a result, the FMC will publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register in the coming days. The ANPRM will seek information and responses to detailed questions about the costs and impacts of the proposed regulatory changes.
It will include a 30-day public comment period during which interested parties can provide information to the Commission relevant to specific issues that will determine the agency’s next steps.
Individuals may share comments responsive to the ANPRM via [email protected]. While all parties are welcome to provide comments in response, filings should not be complaints regarding individual cruise experiences. Those can be sent to [email protected].
At the end of the 30-day comment period, the Commission will consider the comments received and recommend further actions.
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