A hockey team that was to participate in a tournament in Russia struggles to get reimbursed for its trip. The 14 players and their wives have been waiting three years for a return from the Travel Agent Customer Compensation Fund.

Distinctive Sport Club was due to fly to Russia in May 2020 to play two games in St. Petersburg and two more in Moscow, against local teams.

“We were all thrilled,” says Pierre Paquette, the instigator of the group trip. “We had blue-white-red jerseys made with logos that refer to the game of December 31, 1975 when the Canadians played against the Red Army. »

“We all picked a number from the 1975 team. We’re in our 50s and we lived through that era,” he continued.

Each couple – players and companions – had to pay $7,000 for the trip. Pierre Paquette collected the money from his comrades and made three installments totaling $45,600 to the Hockey International travel agency. The pandemic and travel restrictions halted the project before the fourth and final payment was released.

“A year earlier, our journey would have come true. We even said to ourselves that once we got our refund, we would relaunch the project of going to Russia. But the war in Ukraine has come. It put a nail in the coffin,” Mr. Paquette said.

The player nicknamed Pistol Pete has taken steps to obtain a refund from the travel agency. The latter gave him $32,280. In April 2020, he also made a request to the Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents (FICAV) to recover the rest of the money invested, namely $13,320.

In three years, Pierre Paquette maintains that he has left a dozen messages on the voicemail of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the company which was mandated by the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC) to manage the flood of requests related to COVID-19. The man claims that during this time, he has only received three emails or calls from PwC asking him to update his file or submit supporting documents. The last call was on July 4, 2022, he said.

On Friday, following steps by La Presse, the hockey player received a call from PwC. In a few weeks, he should receive a check for $13,320 to reimburse his teammates.

“I don’t even know if people were paid by the Fund. It’s not transparent as a treatment,” Mr. Paquette told us before he knew he would be compensated.

The OPC confirms that travelers have indeed reviewed the color of their money: 12,606 claims have been accepted and reimbursed since the start of the pandemic. The total amount of these compensations will be known when all files related to COVID-19 have been processed.

“There are 1,705 files left: 525 are to be analyzed and 1,180 are still incomplete, but each of the claimants has been contacted individually to ask them for the missing documents,” said Charles Tanguay, head of media relations at the OPC.

Normally, requests submitted to FICAV are settled in a few months or weeks, says Mr. Tanguay, but files related to COVID-19 are more complex.

“The COVID file is one of unprecedented magnitude and complexity, for which we have no point of comparison. This is by far the biggest incident in the history of FICAV,” he explains. The Fund was created in 2004.

Mr. Tanguay also recalls that the federal government took more than a year to settle the question of the financial assistance granted to airlines for the reimbursement of customers. It was only after this step that the processing of applications submitted to the Fund could begin.

45,584 requests received

12,606 refunds made

2471 requests refused

1180 incomplete files

525 requests to analyze

20,000 claims canceled by claimants reimbursed by a third party

9,000 files closed because the claimant, after multiple requests, did not provide the requested information