The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has written to 100 travel firms to warn them to “respect the refund rights” of holidaymakers ahead of the summer season.
CMA said it had written to the package travel companies with the “most complaints about them” to remind them of their legal obligations and that must make refund options “clear and accessible”.
In the open letter, CMA said it expected package travel providers to “fully comply with UK consumer protection law” when it comes to both past and new issues.
“Our priority must be to ensure that consumers are protected and businesses adhere to consumer protection law, as this is key to maintaining trust in markets, which will benefit both the package holiday sector and consumers alike,” says the letter.
The authority added that it had also received formal “undertakings” from Tui UK agreeing to provide “clearer” upfront information on refunds to customers whose holidays are cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of CMA, said: “International travel is set to resume soon and lots of people will be considering a long-awaited trip abroad. With that in mind, we want to make sure people are fully aware of their refund rights, so they can make informed choices about booking a holiday.
“We’ve secured millions in refunds for people who couldn’t go on their hard-earned trips over the past year and now we’re calling on package holiday companies to make the refund process less hassle in the future.
“We expect all firms to give clear cancellation options and will consider appropriate steps if we see companies breaking the law by refusing or delaying refunds this summer.”
The CMA letter also details what it expects to see from travel companies this summer in terms of refunds.
This includes giving refunds within 14 days for cancelled holidays and ensuring that any offer of a refund credit note (RCN) is accompanied by the option of a full refund.
Clients should also have the right to a full refund if they choose to cancel their package due to “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances at the destination significantly affecting the holiday they have booked or their travel there”.
CMA added that Foreign Office (FCDO) advice against travelling to a destination would be “strong evidence that these unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances are likely to apply”.
In this situation, the authority said that if a consumer was denied a full refund, the holiday firm would have to explain “why it disagrees that the holiday or travel is significantly affected”.