After countries began to close their borders and cancel flights earlier this year, it became clear to thousands that their spring and summer holidays would not be going ahead as planned. It seemed as though those who were left out of pocket due to cancelled holidays would be reimbursed for their failed plans, and most people were advised to wait for their booking agents to get in touch with more information.
Unfortunately, according to a group set up to protect consumer rights during the COVID-19 pandemic – the UK Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) COVID-19 Taskforce – many people have not been able to claim the refund that they were initially promised.
The CMA Taskforce has been inundated by complaints from people who believe they have received unfair treatment regarding refunds and cancellations. In fact, from more than 21,000 coronavirus related complaints, around four fifths have been related to these types of issue.
Some of the issues that they have uncovered include:
- Companies refusing to offer a refund despite customers being eligible for one
- Companies bringing in unnecessarily complex refunds processes, making it difficult to claim
- People being misled about the type of compensation that’s available – for instance, being led to believe that they’re only able to receive credit towards future holidays, not actual refunds
Many of these complaints are related to the same larger travel organisations, which will hopefully make the job of enforcing a fair policy slightly simpler. The CMA have said that they will be announcing measures to ensure that people get their refunds over the coming weeks.
What am I entitled to?
If you had booked any of the following and it has now been cancelled, then you’re entitled to a full refund:
- Any flights on a UK or EU airline
- Any flight leaving the UK or EU, regardless of airline
- Any package holiday
It’s quite likely that you’ll be asked to consider taking a credit instead, but you’re not under any obligation to do so. If you can afford to lose the money and know that you’ll use the credit in the future, then you may want to consider this option – doing so will help to support the travel industry by preventing firms from going bust. However, you’re under no obligation to do so: you paid for a service that you will no longer receive, and you are very much entitled to your money back.
Think carefully before accepting a voucher. If you choose a credit voucher and then later change your mind, then you almost certainly won’t be able to exchange it for money.
Anybody who is currently having problems getting a refund can let the CMA know by using a form on the government’s website: click here. You can also use this same form to report any other unfair business practices that you witness during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, if a company has raised their prices unfairly or started making misleading claims about their products, you can raise it here.
While we do have some sympathies with the companies who are now struggling to stay afloat due to loss of business, it’s disappointing to see customers treated badly. We hope that the CMA Taskforce will be able to resolve the situation so that consumer rights are upheld.