eBay Australia sets up special fund for victims of collapsed online travel company

Auction site eBay Australia will set up a special fund to help holiday makers caught in the collapse of Gold Coast-based online travel company Accommodation 1.

The collapse of company, which was placed in liquidation on May 19, has hit 2,100 customers who booked accommodation in Gold Coast hotels including Circle on Cavill, the Q1 and Chevron Renaissance.

Accommodation 1 sold through two sites: ourholiday.com.au and Gifts2U.com.au, which operated on eBay.

The auction site has been flooded with comments from angry buyers, who must now chase refunds through PayPal, their credit card companies or their travel insurance.

However, eBay Australia yesterday announced “special fund to pay buyers who purchased vouchers from eBay.com.au “seller gifts_2_u” and have not received or cannot redeem their vouchers”.

In a post on a discussion thread on the Accommodation 1 collapse, an eBay spokesperson said it is now working with liquidators from insolvency firm Worrells to try and identify vouchers sold which were to be used after May 19.

It says it is likely to need to set up two separate processes to pay buyers whose vouchers dates can and can’t be identified.

“We are aiming to finalise the details of these processes in the coming days and will email impacted buyers with next steps shortly.

“eBay is creating this one-off fund in recognition of the unique circumstances pertaining to these sales. eBay regrets any loss and inconvenience buyers have experienced.”

The setting up of the fund is a ray of hope for Jenni Gerhardt, who appears to be the biggest loser from the company’s collapse. She purchased $5,680 worth of vouchers from the eBay seller in January for a special holiday to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday.

While she is hopeful she may recover some money from the new eBay fund, she remains cautious after failing to get refunds from PayPal (as her purchase occurred more than 45 days ago) and from her travel insurer (which said it will not pay out because Accommodation 1 was a wholesaler).

“We’ll believe it [a refund] when we see it,” she says.

Gerhard is upset with eBay’s handling of the matter and says the auction site refused to tell her what had happened to the Gifts2U.com.au site because of privacy concerns. She says she thoroughly researched the seller’s credentials, and was encourage by the thousands of pieces of positive feedback and the fact that Gifts2U was a designated “power seller” on eBay.

Gerhard has now booked another accommodation provider, but is eager to hear more details about a possible refund from the new eBay fun.

“I’ve had to max my other credit card to book another unit. It would be good if I could get some money back.”

Liquidator Jason Bettles of Worrells told SmartCompany that while the liquidation is small in monetary terms – there are debts of about $900,000 outstanding – the number of customers and landlords involved has made it very messy case.

On top of the customers who have been caught by the collapse, Bettles says a number of landlords had signed long-term rental agreements with Accommodation 1 and are now owed back rent.

He will continue to investigate how the company’s financial position unravelled.

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