Package holiday companies cannot be trusted on pandemic refunds, claim consumer experts.
Leading operators are failing to give travellers desperate for a sunshine break accurate information on their refund and cancellation rights, according to an investigation by Which?
Last year many holiday companies and airlines encouraged people to make a booking over the summer months and then – illegally – failed to pay swift refunds when trips were banned on government orders.
Experts at Which? fear travellers could suffer the same exploitation again this year, regardless of the euphoria around the impact of vaccinations.
The group did a mystery shop of Love Holidays, On the Beach, Teletext Holidays, Trailfinders, TravelUp and Tui to find out what they are telling customers.
Only Trailfinders and Tui consistently answered Which?’s questions in line with the law. And only these two companies committed to reimbursing both flights and hotels within 14 days, which is required under the law.
Which? said agents at all of the others gave misleading or contradictory responses, which suggested they might not comply with the law.
The researchers asked if customers could cancel a package holiday and get their money back if they found they would be required to quarantine on their arrival at their holiday destination. In these circumstances customers should be offered the choice between a reasonable alternative or a refund.
Again, only Tui and Trailfinders said they would provide refunds for customers in this scenario. Agents at all the other companies said customers would only receive a full refund if the airline cancelled their flight.
The editor at Which? Travel, Rory Boland, said: ‘Holiday companies are quick to offer promises that you can book with confidence this summer, but unfortunately many of them won’t be so quick to refund your money if coronavirus prevents you from travelling – and that’s if they refund you at all.
‘Whether you can book with confidence ultimately comes down to who you book with. Many of the companies that broke the law last year have suggested they may do so again, so regulators must be ready to take strong action against any operators found to be misleading their customers or breaking the law.
‘Travellers considering a holiday this year should only book with companies that guarantee in their flexible booking terms that they will be able to get all of your money back if lockdowns, quarantine and other disruption should strike.’
Love Holidays said refund rights vary depending on the circumstances and the reason for a cancellation. It promised to ensure customer service teams receive additional guidance to ensure they give correct information.
TravelUp insisted its refund policies comply with the law and pledged improved training of its staff.
On the Beach said: ‘In the event of a travel ban or a national lockdown where travel outside of the UK is prohibited and flights are cancelled, we will fully refund customers in cash within 14 days. This is a critical part of our Covid Promise, which launched in 2021, where, if a holiday cannot be provided due to Covid-19, a full cash refund will be provided within 14 days of an airline cancelling a flight.
‘Should a mandatory quarantine period be imposed upon arrival in a foreign country, we will look to offer our customer an alternative destination package or provide a cash refund within 14 days.’
Teletext, which is one of several companies investigated by the Competition & Markets Authority over a failure to pay refunds, did not comment.
Source: Thanks msn.com