Refund credit notes (RCN) "will be financially protected in the event of future failed travel plans", according to a new government-backed Business Companion bulletin offering advice for travel businesses.
Dated 7 May, Business Companion’s Coronavirus Bulletin outlines how, in accordance with the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), “a full refund or rebooking (if Abta or Atol-protected) should be offered” for cancelled package bookings.
It also, however, explains how “the strict application of legislation may not be appropriate” and says “a credit note will be financially protected”.
The document, which carries Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) and Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) branding, also includes the Competition and Markets Authority’s advice that “credits, rebooking or rescheduling may be offered as an alternative to a refund”, adding “a refund should still be an option that is clearly and easily available".
"Any restrictions that apply to credits, rebooking or re-scheduling, such as the period in which credits must be used or services re-booked, must also be fair and made clear to consumers,” the document states.
"If refunds are taking longer due to the high number being processed, let your customers know and try to complete the refund within a reasonable time."
Abta has championed a temporary RCN regime allowing travel companies to offer clients deferred refunds that carry the same financial protection as the original booking.
However, while the CAA is understood to be aligned with Abta on the issue, the association has been awaiting formal confirmation from Beis – the department responsible for the PTRs - to clear the CAA to put the scheme on a legal footing.
Although despite the document being dated 7 May, Abta on Tuesday (12 May) – in welcoming the government’s plans to extend the furlough scheme – renewed its call for clarity on refunds and to make RCNs part of a “wider strategy" to support the travel sector.
Its demands include: "Providing guidance and clarity on refunds for package holidays, including confirming clearly and publicly what the CAA has stated privately, that RCNs covering Atol package holidays with flights are financially protected.”
TTG has approached Abta, Beis and CAA for comment and clarification, including details of how the message from Beis and the CTSI was communicated to relevant stakeholders.