Thursday 13 May 2021 11:52 am

Competition watchdog warns travel firms over summer holiday refunds

The UK’s competition watchdog has today warned package holiday firms that they will be in breach of the law if they do not give passengers refunds if holidays are cancelled this summer due to the pandemic.

Last summer the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) received thousands of complaints from frustrated holidaymakers who were unable to get their money back from such firms.

Over the last year, the CMA has taken action against five firms, resulting in over £200m being paid back to customers.

One of these firms, Tui, has pledged to provide clearer information on refunds upfront to customers whose holidays have been cancelled due to coronavirus as a result of the CMA’s work.

Chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “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.

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“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.”

The warning comes with international travel due to begin again on 17 May, albeit in much restricted circumstances.

Of the 12 countries and dependencies on the UK’s “green list” for travel, only Portugal is a popular tourist destination.

To deal with huge demand from holidaymakers starved of sun, some airlines have laid on extra services to the destination.

Easyjet this morning said it had added 105,000 seats to “green list” destinations in the last week. Ryanair has also added tens of thousands of more seats, while Tui said demand had been so great that it would use its bigger planes for the trips.

But for other firms, the risk is not worth taking. Late last night holiday provider On the Beach said it was pulling all of its holidays until September due to the uncertainty.

The firm’s chief executive, Simon Cooper, said: “There’s nothing we want more than to be able to send customers on holiday, but with the current number of unknowns, we don’t think that now is the right time for customers to book new holidays departing in the next few months.”