Coronavirus Holiday Package Refunds – Know Your Rights

  • Coronavirus outbreak Q&A: Know your rights for TUI refunds and package holiday refunds and flight refunds.
  • Everything you need to know: from whether you can get a package holiday refund to airline cancellations
  • Flight companies, Tui and Jet2 Holidays, and other companies have all cancelled holidays until further notice.
  • TUI as from 16th April 2020 have said they have cancelled all holidays until the beginning of June.

 

TUI Refunds – Know Your Rights

 

The coronavirus has sent shockwaves round the world with tens of thousands of people dying the from the virus. It has also affected many business sectors which includes travel. Although we understand how hard the travel industry are having it at the moment, and how they are struggling financially, it is no excuse to treat customers they have been doing and to withhold holiday refunds and force them to accept vouchers.

Many tour operators and travel agents like STA Travel and Loveholidays have told customers to accept vouchers or to rebook their holidays as they are not issuing refunds. Other tour operators like TUI are giving their customers the run around by coming up with lots of excuses why their refunds have not been given.

The following excuses are the most common reasons why people have not received their refunds:

  1. Sorry, there must be a problem with the computer system, it has been actioned
  2. Your refund has been actioned, it will be in the account within seven days (it does not arrive)
  3. We have actioned the refund, I am not sure what has gone wrong, we will action it again
  4. It has been actioned, if you don’t receive it in your account in seven days call back
  5. The refund has been actioned but all the finance department are on furlough so we don’t know when you will receive it

Due to the TUI refunds scandal, the once popular package holiday company have lost their reputation with tens of thousands of people telling In2town Travel Magazine that they will never book with them again. If TUI acted in a more professional manner, and looked after their customers in such a troubling time then maybe they could have kept the respect of their customers.

Holiday Rights Information by David Bott, Senior Partner at Bott and Co

 

In2town Lifestyle Magazine editor sat down with David Bott, the senior partner at Bott and Co. to find out about the rights of consumers when it comes to getting their money back from TUI refunds and other companies.

Bott and Co is the UK’s leading consumer law firm, known for bringing flight delay law EC Regulation 261/2004 over to the UK and continuing to shape this area of law. The firm also deal with cases where consumers have suffered a mis-sold holiday.

 

  1. When people phone airlines a lot of them are offering vouchers, do customers have to accept the vouchers or can they demand they receive a refund?

Most airlines seem to be offering vouchers. We have much sympathy for the airlines, however the law is clear – the passenger is entitled to a monetary refund within 7 days if an airline cancels a flight, or a free replacement flight at a later date (subject to availability of seats).

  1. We are receiving emails from our readers saying they have contacted the airline they have booked with for a refund and after twenty days have still not received their money, what is the law on refunds if an airline cancels a flight?

Same as the above. A monetary refund should be provided within 7 days or a free replacement flight at a later date. Both are a choice for the passenger to make, and not the airline.

  1. Some airlines are not offering refunds and are only offering vouchers or change of flight, what should a customer do if they are not offered a full refund?

If passengers are not given the option of a refund then they should telephone customer services or alternately put their request in writing, keeping copies. The law is clear that the refund must be provided by the airline that was going to operate the flight and not the company that sold the flight (e.g. a travel agent).

In practical terms we’d also suggest that the passenger submits their refund request in writing – they can use the following text:-

I understand that my flight [Flight Number] on [Flight Date] has been cancelled and I therefore request a full refund pursuant to Articles 5(1)(a) and 8(1)(a) of EC Regulation No. 261/2004. You are reminded that the refund must be made within seven days by bank transfer or cheque. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not accept a travel voucher.

If the airline does not respond or does not agree then the passenger can either issue court proceedings or use ADR. A list of the airlines that have signed up to ADR are available here:-

https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems/How-the-CAA-can-help/Alternative-dispute-resolution/

Claiming through ADR is usually free, except if complaining about British Airways, as they use a company called ‘CEDR’, that charge an upfront fee of £25 (Which is repayable if/when CEDR find in favour of the passenger).

refunds tui rights

  1. TUI have come under fire for not issuing refunds on package holidays, some of our readers have said they are being told to accept vouchers or the option to change their holiday date, is this allowed?

Tour Operators are able to offer vouchers or an option to change a holiday in the event of a termination, however, under the Package Travel Regulations (2018), there is a right of a full refund.

It is important to note that this is only when the Tour Operator has cancelled the package. Travellers asking to cancel a future package would still be classed as a cancellation and therefore subject to potentially heavy cancellation charges.

  1. What is the law with package holiday refunds if TUI have cancelled a holiday because of the coronavirus?

Travellers who have had their holiday packages cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus would be entitled to a full refund of the package. The right to a refund under the PTR (2018) is not subject to any restriction on reasons for the cancellation. 

  1. We have also been told by some TUI customers that they have been waiting more than two weeks for a refund and have still not received their money, what should they do?

Under the Package Travel Regulations (2018) it is outlined that refunds should be processed without undue delay and no later than 14 days after the package has been terminated.

If travellers have not received a refund after this time, we would recommend initiating legal proceedings against the Tour Operator. The first step to do this is to send the Tour Operator a “Letter before Action”.

  1. According to consumer law, if a travel company cancels a package holiday then the travel company should issue the refund within 14 days, is this correct?

Yes this is correct.

  1. TUI seem to be breaking this law, so how come they are getting away with it and who is it down to to take action against them?

We appreciate that the Tour Operators are in a difficult position with the number of cancelations occurring, however, the law is clear on their responsibilities and the rights of travellers in these instances.

As a Consumer Law firm, Bott and Co Solicitors are always keen to help consumers with their issues and we therefore encourage any travellers that are having trouble receiving their refunds to contact us.

tui refunds advice

  1. We have one reader who spent £8,000 on a cruise holiday with TUI, they have phoned TUI eighteen times now and they keep on getting told that their money is on the way. They have been waiting 26 days now and the money has still not arrived. What should do they do?

In instances such as these, we recommend that travellers write a “Letter before Action” to the relevant Tour Operator, giving them 14 days to provide the refund with the threat that Court Proceedings will be issued should they fail.

  1. Some readers who have booked a cruise holiday with TUI have said they are trying to convince them to change the date of their cruise or accept a voucher when really they want a refund, what can they do to get their refund when TUI customer services are trying to convince them to take an alternative?

If the travellers explicitly want a refund for their cancelled cruise they should make this clear to the Tour Operator. Should the Tour Operator continue to pressure the travellers to accept alternatives, we recommend the traveller writes a “Letter before Action” as outlined above.

  1. One of the biggest excuses with TUI at the moment concerning refunds is ‘your refund has been actioned but 99% of TUI staff are on leave due to the coronavirus so we don’t know when the refund will be issued’ is this just a way for TUI to keep hold of the money for longer, and if so what should TUI customers do to get their money back?

In these circumstances, Tour Operators should provide proof that the refund has been actioned and timeframes of when travellers can expect their money back.

Again, should the Tour Operator not adhere to the timeframe or refuse to provide the information, we recommend writing a “Letter before Action”.

  1. Can a TUI customer or any customer from an airline or other travel company claim their money back through Paypal if they paid their holiday that way?

Paypal have a dispute resolution service whereby clients can raise a dispute for transactions made through Paypal.

Paypal will then investigate the matter and if found in favour of the consumer, they can reverse the transaction. This must be done within 180 days of paying for the goods/services.

  1. Customers seeking a refund can action a section 75 through their credit card company if they paid on their credit card, can you explain what a section 75 is?

This refers to section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 which provides a purchaser with the right to claim a refund or damages from their credit card provider, rather than the supplier that actually provided the goods or services.

This law applies to purchases between £100 and £30,000 that have been made by credit card. This must be ‘per item’, so if you spent £300 on 6 individual chairs that are £50 each then you do not qualify for this protection. However, if the items were sold as a set of 6 for £300 then you would be entitled to make a claim under section 75.

If you use your credit card to make a part payment for a purchase – for instance if you’re paying a deposit now and then the rest later, then the value of the total purchase will still need to be less than £30,000.

The protection gives you the right to claim damages from the credit card company when there has been a breach of contract or misrepresentation by the supplier. This can be particularly handy when the supplier is no longer in business, they’re based abroad or perhaps you just can’t get hold of them – in all these situations you are perfectly entitled to make a claim against the credit card company.

There is no legal requirement to present your claim to the supplier first, however this may be advisable as it can sometimes be the quickest way to get the outcome you want.

If the supplier does not resolve the complaint to your satisfaction then you can bring a claim against the credit card company. This is usually achieved by filling in a specific form or writing to them.

package holiday refund advice

  1. If someone has paid for their holiday with their debit card through their bank, is there a way they can get their money back, or can they only do that with a credit card?

A section 75 claim would not work for transactions made with a debit card. In these instances, some banks have “chargeback” options whereby they can look to reverse the transactions. As this is not a route outlined in law, the rules and timeframes for “chargebacks” are dependent on the bank used.

In these instances, we recommend that travellers contact their bank and see if a chargeback is a viable way to get their money back.

 

Package Holidays TUI Refunds

 

  1. We have heard that some TUI customers are threatening legal action against TUI, would you advise people go down that route if they are fed up of being promising a refund and it never arrives?

Issuing Court Proceedings should always be a last resort but if Tour Operators are refusing to refund money they are legally obliged to return, we are of the opinion that legal action is the best step.

  1. Some customers have been told they cannot have a refund and only have vouchers as per instructions from ABTA, is this correct?

As it currently stands, under the Package Travel Regulations (2018) travellers have a right to a full refund.

  1. We have had people contact us who booked a cruise holiday with TUI and because they had health problems they were too scared to travel, so they cancelled their holiday, is there a chance they could get their money back?

If the package/cruise was cancelled by the travellers and not the Tour Operator, this would be classed as a cancellation and therefore potentially subject to cancellation charges.

Unfortunately, cancellation charges can often be a high percentage, if not all of the cost of the holiday leaving travellers with no refund.

However, the Package Travel Regulation (2018) does state that travellers are able to terminate the package before the start of the holiday, without paying in any termination fees in certain extraordinary circumstances.

  1. One reader said they cancelled their package holiday hours before TUI announced they had cancelled their holiday, what are their rights?

This would be classed as a cancellation as above.

 

David Bott is the Senior Partner of Bott and Co. David is an expert in personal injury law, whiplash reforms, access to justice, claimant rights and flight delay law in the UK. He regularly lectures on business management and the changes in the law and the protocols.