Hoseasons and sister brand Cottages.com have agreed to refund customers with cancelled bookings after the Competition and Markets Authority stepped in.
Vacation Rentals, the parent company of both domestic operators, has voluntarily complied with the CMA, which is investigating operators’ refunds and cancellation policies during the Covid-19 crisis.
The CMA said: “Other holiday lets firms, however, have not yet agreed to do the same as Vacation Rentals, and the CMA’s investigation is continuing.” It did not name the other companies involved.
A spokesperson for Vacation Rentals said: “We believe we have acted fairly and responsibly at all times.
"We responded and adapted to the evolving issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic whenever new guidelines from the government were made available.
"Following the CMA’s statement on 30 April clarifying its view on the law on cancellations of consumer contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic, we acted immediately and expanded the options available to any customers who were due to travel during the government imposed lockdown period to include a full cash refund.
"We did so because we felt it was the right thing to do.
"By the time the CMA’s investigation into our business commenced, we were already acting in line with the CMA’s guidance.
"The investigation concluded swiftly and resulted in voluntary undertakings on our part.”
Common complaints to the CMA include companies refusing to provide full refunds or offering vouchers instead of cash. The authority warned: “The CMA will continue with its inquiries into the holiday accommodation sector, which may ultimately lead to court action against companies which fail to comply.”
The CMA’s Covid-19 Taskforce has so far received around 4,500 reports about UK holiday rental companies, with complaints about Vacation Rentals “making up a significant proportion of those reports”.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said:
“Our COVID-19 Taskforce is working hard to ensure that consumers get what they are entitled to, so it’s good news that Vacation Rentals has agreed to offer people the refunds they are due. We welcome this step and other holiday lets firms must now follow suit.
“We know the pandemic is presenting businesses with challenges too, but it’s not right that people are being left hundreds or even thousands of pounds out of pocket – on top of having to sacrifice their holidays.
“Consumer protection law exists for a reason; businesses must observe the law or face the possibility of enforcement action.”