If anyone was still in doubt about whether government was listening to travel’s pleas, news that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has widened its refunds investigation to include package holidays provided the final nail in the coffin.
For some agents, it’s a welcome relief – the probe (rightly) challenges companies insisting on unreasonable refund dates. And there are those who feel, perhaps understandably, Abta is to blame for some of the confusion surrounding refund credit notes.
The association has now given its backing to the CMA probe, but is sticking to its message that members should refund customers “without undue delay”.
Exactly what “undue delay” means, though, remains unclear. With such vague phrasing, and lack of an actual time frame, is it any wonder so many operators have been interpreting the phrase in a way that best suits their business?
The difficulty, as Abta points out, is there isn’t a “one size fits all time frame in this situation”.
Abta has simply tried to provide guidance, however vague, where ministers have failed. The 14-day PTR time frame has been accepted by the EU as unrealistic, especially when companies like Tui are dealing with a million phone calls a day. But still, travel’s plea for official guidance from government is ignored.
With government intervention looking increasingly unlikely, the longer this continues the more consumers’ – and agents’ – frustrations will mount. As agent Lee Harrison points out, if a working time frame had been established from the start, “clients would be more understanding of the situation”.
It is now vital the industry determines what exactly constitutes “unreasonable delay”. The reputation of the UK travel sector – and perhaps now Abta – depends on it.