Travel brands may be ploughing ahead with their marketing activity to promote summer breaks but they have been warned they will face tough action if they fail to pay refunds should foreign holidays be cancelled by the Covid pandemic.
The Competition & Markets Authority has published an open letter to the sector and has also sent it directly to the 100 package travel firms with the most complaints about them.
The move comes as online travel agent On The Beach has stopped selling all holidays for this summer due to Covid uncertainty, although EasyJet and TUI said they will begin offering holidays to countries classified as “amber” on the travel list, despite Government advice not to travel for leisure.
In 2020, cancelled trips resulted in 23,000 complaints to the competition watchdog and the CMA said it had taken action against five major brands, TUI, Teletext Holidays, LoveHolidays, Lastminute.com and Virgin Holidays, which had now refunded a total of £200m.
As a result of CMA action, TUI UK has also given a formal commitment to provide clearer information on refunds upfront to customers whose holidays have been cancelled due to coronavirus.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “International travel is set to resume soon and lots of people will be considering a long-awaited trip abroad. With that in mind, we want to make sure people are fully aware of their refund rights, so they can make informed choices about booking a holiday.
“We’ve secured millions in refunds for people who couldn’t go on their hard-earned trips over the past year and now we’re calling on package holiday companies to make the refund process less hassle in the future.
“We expect all firms to give clear cancellation options and will consider appropriate steps if we see companies breaking the law by refusing or delaying refunds this summer.”
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