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UK watchdog issues refunds warning to package holiday firms as travel restarts

·2-min read
 (PA)
(PA)

The UK's competition watchdog has warned package holiday companies to respect the refund rights of holidaymakers as the return of leisure travel approaches.

The CMA today published an open letter "to remind firms of their legal obligations and the need to ensure refund options are clear and accessible" this summer, with travel still subject to restrictions and potential last minute changes.

The body said it also sent the letter directly to 100 package holiday firms it has "received the most complaints about".

In the letter, the CMA said that it has received more than 23,000 complaints from consumers in the sector since the pandemic broke out and devastated the travel sector and holiday plans in March 2020.

The watchdog said it has seen some consumers offered vouchers by firms when they were entitled to refunds, and that its findings indicated some companies have also been "imposing unnecessary steps or procedural barriers which delayed or prevented consumers from getting the refunds to which they are entitled within 14 days".

It insisted that companies should make a refund option obvious in emails and messages, and make their processes for claiming a full refund "clear".

The CMA stated: "As the travel sector recovers from the pressures caused by coronavirus, our expectation is that package travel organisers will fully comply with UK consumer protection law, both in relation to past issues and where new issues arise."

Since the pandemic broke out the watchdog has secured refund commitments from firms including Virgin Holidays, Tui UK, Sykes Cottages and Vacation Rentals, following consumer complaints.

In February it threatened online travel firm Lastminute.com with court action unless it quickly paid out £1 million in outstanding refunds.

The Government has said that Britons can head on holiday from May 17, with many destinations requiring quarantine on return. A few countries, including Portugal, are on the “green list” of countries tourists will be able to visit from Monday without quarantining on return either at home or in a hotel.

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