A Colorado travel company will pay nearly $665,000 in refunds to several hundred Minnesota music students after their trip to Europe was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, under a settlement reached with Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Some 344 students in Minnesota signed up for an "Ambassadors of Music" tour to Europe last summer arranged by Voyageurs International of Wheat Ridge, Colo. But as the coronavirus spread abroad, the trip was canceled.
Students paid $6,345 each, while adults were charged $6,745 to cover airfare, lodging, meals, event and concert itineraries, guides, transportation and other fees in Europe. An additional $2,075 to $2,265 was charged some students and adults to cover an extended tour in Greece.
When the trip was called off, Voyageurs alerted customers that it would retain a $1,900 "cancellation fee" for every participant, according to court documents filed Friday in Ramsey County District Court.
"The company told consumers that the large cancellation fee was necessary because the company 'made payments for travel arrangements that [it would] not be able to recoup,' " court documents state.
After receiving dozens of complaints, Ellison's office launched an investigation into whether the company "fairly and truthfully" communicated with customers about cancellation fees.
John Flanders, an attorney representing Voyageurs International, had no comment on the settlement.
The complaints detailed how many of the students had worked to earn enough money for the trip, "only to be left holding the bag once their trips were canceled through no fault of their own," Ellison said in a news release.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on businesses and consumers alike — but that doesn't give businesses the right to treat consumers unfairly," Ellison said. "Minnesota students and their families paid hard-earned money for these travel packages."
All told, Voyageurs agreed to pay $664,835 to Minnesota consumers in the settlement.
The company also agreed to pay $464,000 in refunds to consumers, according to an agreement announced by the Washington state attorney general late last year. More than 11,000 consumers signed an online petition on change.org calling for a refund as well.
Voyageurs has been organizing yearly travel tours to Europe for high school music students and their parents since 1970, according to its website.
Janet Moore • 612-673-7752