Kane Pirie, leader of the Right to Refund consumer campaign, has written to Abta asking the association to “reconsider their position” over changes to the Package Travel Regulations and the issuing of credit notes.
The call came as Right to Refund neared 20,000 online signatories backing its cause, advocating “a simple but targeted grace period” to reimburse consumers for their cancelled holidays.
Right to Refund says customers “who are financially distressed” must be refunded within 14 days of cancellation, while other refunds “need not be processed” until 17 September.
Pirie, managing director of Vivid Travel, said Right to Refund’s proposals are “fair and balanced”.
“Consumers will still be refunded on a timely basis and those in need within 14 days. Travel companies have a generous window in which to arrange their affairs in a professional manner, with money from shareholders and banks, not customers," he said.
Pirie argued that leniency over the 14-day refund rule, being fought for by Abta to relaxing strains on travel companies, “is of no use” and said that “if a travel company cannot get itself financially on an even keel within six months, then adding an extra year will not change that”.
“The Abta proposals will in fact make matters worse, as several zombie travel companies will stagger on into Q1 2021, take bookings and then fall insolvent when their loan notes to customers [credit notes] become redeemable. This will drag out this intolerable muddle into 2021,” he said.
“When we established Right To Refund some weeks ago, we advocated a 6-month grace period and still do so today. I also warned that Abta’s unorthodox approach of acting as if a wished-for change in law has in fact already happened would cause chaos and open up a Pandora’s box of horrors.
“The Abta proposals, which I have mischievously called the Great Refund Robbery (there is a time value to money), are a turkey that cannot fly.
“The current state of affairs is an embarrassment. It’s anarchy and that damages trust. For retailers - trust is king. Customers have the choice and who would choose to return to a shop that broke its word, held on to your money and generally made it clear they don’t value or respect you?
“We are inviting Abta to reconsider, for the good of all stakeholders and to move to our position, which in contrast to their current shaky ground, we believe is fair for all stakeholders. This position is detailed in our recent letter to [transport secretary] Grant Shapps.”