Former Thomas Cook chief executive Harriet Green and ex-Gold Medal managing director Terry Fisher are among a handful of new, high profile supporters of Kane Pirie’s Right to Refund initiative.
The campaign, launched last week, initially called on travel businesses to honour their statutory obligations and provide refunds for cancellations resulting from the impacts of the coronavirus crisis within 14 days, as mandated by the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).
However, this directly contravened Abta’s stance and guidance on the unprecedented situation; Abta is urging the government to ease the PTRs to allow travel sellers to provide clients protected "credit notes" instead of immediate refunds to retain cash and prevent widespread failures that would place pressures on the CAA and Atol fund.
Travel Republic co-founder Pirie, now managing director of Vivid Travel, last week softened the campaign’s stance to align it with Abta’s objectives, describing the association as the "de facto regulator" in the absence of government intervention.
However, announcing on Tuesday (15 April) the campaign had secured the support of four "industry leaders", most notably former Thomas Cook Group chief executive Harriet Green, Pirie said there was government support out there for businesses, and added "the tide was turning" in the debate.
Green and Fisher are joined by silversurfers.com chief executive Martin Lock; and non-executive director of the Air Charter Service Richard Carrick, in pledging their support for the campaign.
“The future of brands and businesses are being defined right now," said Green. "We all have our lists of the good, the bad, and the ugly businesses based on how they react.
"Consumers, customers and many [other] people are struggling as they are made redundant, furloughed or feel lost in the vortex of financial ruin and extraordinary debt – it is easier for businesses to raise money than it is for many individuals to stay solvent over the upcoming months.
"Based on what I understand to be the fundamental ethos of the ‘Its Right to Refund’ campaign, I think monies should be returned to folks as soon as possible – both for the survival of goodwill in the industry and the wellbeing of customers.”
Fisher said it was "fundamentally wrong" to withhold client monies, and he felt "vouchers were not acceptable". "Everyone who asks for a cash refund should be given one," said Fisher. "Business owners need to treat clients’ money as exactly that - clients’ money. Not cash to fund their business."
Carrick added with rebuilding consumer trust likely to be paramount when the post-coronavirus recovery comes, companies could not be seen to be "openly breaking the law" and showing "blatant disregard" for that trust.