Europe’s biggest tour operator has committed to refunding all customers whose holidays were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic by the end of September.
Tui said all refunds will be issued by 30 September after being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the competition watchdog.
Thousands of disappointed holidaymakers complained to the CMA after Tui failed to pay them their money back within 14 days as stipulated by the Package Travel Regulations.
“We remain sorry that holiday refunds took longer to process during the height of Covid-19,” said a Tui spokesperson.
“The volume of cancellations and customer contacts was unprecedented, and at a time when retail stores, contact centres and offices were closed because of the nationwide lockdown.
“We worked tirelessly to deliver system improvements in extremely challenging circumstances, making refund times shorter prior to the CMA engagement with the package travel sector.
“Where due, customer refunds will be made within 14 days, as they were prior to the pandemic. We would like to thank our customers for their understanding.”
The CMA said the tour operator, which also owns the brands First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Crystal, TUI Scene, TUI Lakes & Mountains and Skytours, had “engaged constructively” during its investigation.
It will continue to monitor Tui’s speed when it comes to issuing refunds over the coming year.
“The CMA understands that the pandemic has created extraordinary pressure for travel companies, including Tui UK,” said the CMA
“However, customers who had their holidays cancelled due to coronavirus must be treated fairly and receive their refunds promptly.
“It is essential that that all businesses comply with consumer protection law so that people are not being left out of pocket.”
Tui customers have been reminded that they are entitled to a cash refund for their cancelled holiday, even if they previously accepted a credit note.
The company has agreed to contact all those who have unused credit to let them know they can swap it for a refund, to be paid within 14 days.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “It’s absolutely essential that people have trust and confidence when booking package holidays and know that if a cancellation is necessary as a result of coronavirus, businesses will give them a full, prompt refund.”
He added that the watchdog “would not hesitate” to act if it found other holiday companies were failing to refund customers in a timely fashion.
The CMA has already written to more than 100 package holiday companies, reminding them of their obligation to comply with consumer protection law.