Before the pandemic, I booked a £2,000 retreat, hanging out with horses on a Canadian ranch, for May 2020. When lockdowns began, the ranch informed customers that no refunds would be given but that bookings would be honoured when they were ready and able to travel again. I knew they were a small family business so I accepted that. Now I’ve received a newsletter stating that vaccinated customers are not welcome as the vaccine could transfer to the animals. The ranch owner declares that we will not receive refunds because the business is “nearly bankrupt” and suggests we sell our holiday to someone unvaccinated.
The Equinisity ranch in British Colombia promises a “full immersion” experience with horses that will “change your life forever” because “clearing old energies, opening hearts, and connecting us to one consciousness and higher guidance is what the horses do best”. It’s a new-age utopia of equine “spirit lodges” and “liberty play”. The trouble is, there’s no place for Covid protocols or consumer law. The owner, Liz Mitten Ryan, reckons the vaccine is a “bioweapon designed to reduce the population of the unaware and compliant”. She is, she says, awaiting the “great awakening” when “good will overtake evil”. In the meantime, she is unrepentant about pocketing the cash of the customers she’s banned. “My business has been illegally shut down for two years by government mandates,” she told me. “We definitely don’t accept people who have succumbed to the bioweapon depopulation tool and can shed on our sacred land and animals.”
She repeated her suggestion that you find an unvaccinated person and sell your trip to them. As for how they would cross the border into Canada, where tourists must be fully vaccinated, Mitten Ryan says: “We are encouraging the unvaxed to take advantage of fake vax cards and doctors’ notes of exemption.”
Mitten Ryan is entitled to her views on vaccines, but not to ride roughshod over consumer rights. I got in touch with the consumer regulator in British Colombia, Consumer Protection BC, which said that it would consider unresolved complaints about breaches of a consumer contract, although it warned your case was complicated by the fact that you accepted an open-ended deferral. As you paid by debit card you are not protected by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which holds the card issuer jointly liable for a breach of contract. There is a voluntary chargeback scheme for debit-card transactions, but as you paid more than 540 days ago you are out of time to make a claim. The Canadian regulator seems your only hope.
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