A leading online travel agent is refusing refunds to customers whose package holidays have been cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, claiming consumer law has changed.
Love Holidays, which calls itself “the fastest growing online travel agency in the UK,” is refusing to give holidaymakers their money back – and is wrongly insisting it is legally entitled to do so, saying: “We are working in line with the rest of the industry and to the processes set out in this unprecedented situation.”
“In some cases we will be offering vouchers, however, no refunds are being issued at present,” customers have been told.
The company is telling passengers to contact their airlines to seek a refund of the air fare, but there are no guarantees that accommodation costs will be returned.
This is at odds with the Package Travel Regulations 2018, which stipulate that holidaymakers can get all their money back from a tour operator who sells them a package that is subsequently cancelled.
Love Holidays’ own terms and conditions on cancelled holidays accurately reflect the law, saying: “If we cannot offer you an alternative, or even if you just prefer, we will provide you with a full refund of any payments made for the package.”
When the Foreign Office urged on 17 March 2020 against non-essential travel abroad up to 16 April, it had the effect of cancelling all package holidays up to that date – with customers due full refunds by 31 March, which is two weeks after the no-go warning.
Abta, the travel association, has urged holidaymakers to accept “refund credit notes” rather than demand cash. But that does not affect consumers’ statutory rights. No changes have yet been made and current rules still apply.
Yet Love Holidays, which is an Abta member, says: “In some cases we will be offering vouchers however the only refunds being processed are for airline elements only when the customer has spoken with their airline and we have received the monies back to our accounts.
“You must then raise an airline refund ticket for us to pick up once the monies has been received.
“We can put no timescales in place for vouchers as in this unprecedented situation but we are actively working to get to you as quickly as we can.”
Some readers report that when they have cited the information published by The Independent on their right to a refund, they have been told: “I have now given you all of the information that I am able to and am going to proceed to terminate this chat now as I am unable to provide any further guidance.”
A spokesperson for Love Holidays said: "Our immediate priority has been to assist our many customers around the globe when this situation started to unfold.
"We are doing everything we can to help our customers at this incredibly difficult time and we are looking to follow Abta guidance in line with the rest of the travel industry.
"We are in the process of creating refund credit notes for protected bookings. Where refund credit notes are being issued, the current guidance is that these credit notes will remain protected and there will be an ability for customers to request a refund if not used by a particular date."
Abta, the travel trade association, is telling holidaymakers: “The government is urgently reviewing options to introduce temporary changes to regulations that will create a longer window for repaying refunds without affecting the protection provided by an Abta or Atol protected holiday.”