In a significant step forward in the battle for consumer rights during the Coronavirus pandemic, Tui has agreed to refund all customers who have had their holidays cancelled because of Covid-19 by the end of September.
The commitment from the world’s biggest tour operator comes as a result of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which had received thousands of complaints that Tui – like the majority of tour operators –was failing to comply with consumer protection law, which requires refunds to be made within 14 days of a cancellation.
These commitments apply to all of Tui UK tour operator brands which include First Choice, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Tui Scene, Tui Lakes & Mountains and Skytours. And Tui has also promised the CMA to contact all customers who accepted a credit refund note instead of cash and to remind them that they are still entitled to a refund if they prefer.
Despite the fact that it is much overdue and has come about after the intervention of the CMA, the move is an extremely positive one. It will go a long way to restoring the operator's reputation for customer service after it struggled to cope with the situation in the early days of the pandemic.
Some weeks ago the company told me that it had had to deal with 800,000 cancellations over the Easter period alone. Many more had to be cancelled over the summer, some at extremely short notice because of last minute changes to the Government’s quarantine rules.
All operators have found the logistical problems of cancelling so many bookings and finding enough funds to repay customers when they have no new bookings coming in. Tui is the market leader, has deep pockets, and in many ways was an easy win for the CMA.
What we need now is progress with the many other tour operators and airlines which are still failing to meet their legal obligations. The authority says it has written to more than 100 package holiday businesses to remind them of consumer protection law and has opened a number of investigations.
Meanwhile, six weeks ago, the CAA admitted that “there is still work to do” with ensuring airlines meet their obligations to refund customers for cancelled flights, which the law says should be done within seven days. “We have required commitments from airlines as they continue the job of paying customer refunds. Should any airline fall short of the commitments they have made, we will not hesitate to take any further action where required,” it said on July 31.
Judging from the huge number of emails we are still receiving from frustrated Telegraph Travel readers trying to get the refunds which they are legally entitled to, this action is long overdue.