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Travel companies 'breaking the law' over refunds for cancelled holidays amid COVID-19 pandemic

Travel companies 'breaking the law' over refunds for cancelled holidays amid COVID-19 pandemic

Researchers have found that a growing number of leading airlines and holiday providers are refusing to refund customers who have had their travel plans cancelled due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

According to Which?, a growing number of operators are refusing to provide refunds, which breaches their legal obligations to their customers. Other operators are providing vouchers or credit notes, which might prove worthless if travel companies run into financial trouble.

Estimates have suggested that up to £7bn in payments made by UK customers could be affected.

Consumer group Which? found that 20 of the UK's largest operators, including TUI and Jet2, are illegally withholding refunds that should be paid within 14 days. Which? said it had received thousands of complaints and requests for help from people struggling to secure refunds for their cancelled trips and travel plans. 

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said;

 “We have been inundated with messages from desperate travellers, some who are thousands of pounds out of pocket as a result of cancellations and have no idea if or when they’ll see their money again.

“We do not want to see the industry suffer further as a result of this outbreak, but it cannot be on consumers to prop up airlines and travel firms, especially when so many will be in difficult financial situations of their own.

“The government must urgently set out how it will support travel firms and airlines to ensure they can meet their legal obligations to refund customers for cancelled travel plans – and avoid permanent damage to trust and confidence in the travel industry.”

Multiple industry bodies have said that travel firms could be bankrupted by repaying now as they are receiving little in booking revenues.

Which? has set out a 10-point plan for the government, holiday and airline companies, and insurers, which it claims will help maintain trust in the travel industry and protect holidaymakers affected by the current situation. Measures include protecting consumers' legal right to cash refunds, extending Foreign Office travel warnings to a definitive date and ensuring travel insurance terms and conditions are more transparent.

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