Which? names and shames package holiday firms where your refund may be at risk
CONSUMER group Which? has named Love Holidays, On the Beach, Teletext Holidays and TravelUp as the firms putting holidaymakers cash most at risk.
The investigation comes as Brits hope for the return of holidays abroad from May 17, providing the Government's Covid roadmap is given the go-ahead.
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The group has warned sun-seekers that some package holiday firms may not issue refunds on bookings for trips that can't go ahead due to last minute lockdown or quarantine rules.
Which? mystery shopped six ATOL protected companies, three agents from each firm, and found some were still misleading customers on their refund rights.
It named Love Holidays, On the Beach, Teletext Holidays and TravelUp as the firms not giving clear advice to customers.
Under package holiday rules, firms are legally required to refund customers in full within 14 days if part or all of the trip is cancelled by the provider, including if there is a travel ban.
Travel: What are your rights to a refund?
MILLIONS of Brits have had holiday plans cancelled. Here’s what to do if you’re affected.
Firstly, speak to your airline or holiday firm about a refund or rearranging your plans.
You are entitled to a cash refund if it's cancelled your holiday but many have large delays processing cash or may offer vouchers instead.
If the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to countries or regions, you may also be covered for cancellations by your travel insurance if the holiday provider or airline is not helping you.
Keep in mind travel insurance must have been taken out before the FCDO advice changed, otherwise you won't be covered.
If you don't have travel insurance or the excess on your insurance is so high it's not worth claiming, you may be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
Debit card claims or credit card claims of under £100 may be covered under similar Chargeback guarantees.
All four of the companies told Which? mystery shoppers that they would only get their money back for flights if the airline cancelled the trip.
Love Holidays said it would hand back the cash only when it was refunded to them by the airline even though it has already been investigated by the competitions watchdog for withholding refunds.
Meanwhile, a Teletext agent told the Which? mystery shopper they could expect to wait up to two months to get their cash back in the case of a cancellation, despite being under investigation at the time.
TravelUp said it would issue refunds "wherever possible" and added it will charge a minimum £50 admin fee to chase refunds on behalf of customers.
However, the company later clarified to The Sun that it only charges the admin fee in cases where it acts as a travel agent, such as flights only bookings and not package holidays.
"Unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances"
The firms were also asked if customers could get their money back if they were required to quarantine on arrival after making the booking.
Quarantining is classed as an "unavoidable and extraordinary circumstance" under the Package Travel Regulations meaning customers are entitled to a refund or offered a reasonable alternative.
Again, all four companies said cash would only be returned if airlines cancelled the flights.
Only Tui and Trailfinders offered customers refunds in all scenarios asked of them by the mystery shoppers.
Which? is now warning customers to check the small print on firms' flexible booking policies before parting with their cash.
On the Beach and Love Holidays both quit as Abta members last year over refunds to customers. In December the CMA ordered LoveHolidays to refund customers £18million for cancelled trips.
As The Sun reported, both firms were being investigated by the CMA over refunds.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? travel, said: "Whether you can book with confidence ultimately comes down to who you book with.
"Many of the companies that broke the law last year have suggested they may do so again, so regulators must be ready to take strong action against any operators found to be misleading their customers or breaking the law."
Love Holidays spokesperson told The Sun its refund policies are designed to give customers "peace of mind" when making a booking.
It added: "As the Government finalises the travel restart regime in the coming days and weeks, our customer service team will be fully prepared to support customers with any queries they may have."
A TravelUp spokesperson added: "In the event of cancellations or disruption, the refund or rebooking would be handled by our experts in the package holiday customer service team.
"They would ensure that each case is handled according to the correct procedures for their specific type of booking and that customers receive the appropriate refund in the relevant time scale."
A spokesperson for On the Beach told Which?: "The Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge the travel industry as a whole and the way we are able to offer our customers holidays.
“We have adapted our policies to reflect – and provide regular training and updates for our agents with regards to – the changing landscape that Covid-19 provides and it is our priority to ensure we are always giving our customers clear and accurate information."
Teletext Holidays has been contacted for comment.
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