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Competition watchdog inundated with complaints about holiday refunds

The competition watchdog has received almost 21,000 complaints linked to coronavirus since early March and 80% of those it's now getting are about cancellations and refunds, with concerns that travel firms are making refunds hard to claim and pressuring customers to accept vouchers instead.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set up a Covid-19 taskforce to watch and respond to consumer and competition problems arising from the pandemic.

And in its latest update, the taskforce says while a large proportion of complaints received were originally focused on unjustifiable price increases, the bulk now are about cancellations and refunds.

The watchdog hasn't given a precise figure for the number of complaints it's getting about travel refunds, but it's likely to be thousands. It says four out of every five complaints it now receives are about cancellations and refunds, with travel a particular area of concern, and overall it averaged more than 600 complaints a day last week.

As a result, the CMA says it intends to set out "further steps" it plans to take on cancellations and refunds next week. We've asked it for more detail on when this announcement will be and will update this story if we hear back.

For full help on getting a holiday refund, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

Holiday firms 'refusing refunds'

In its latest report, the CMA taskforce says the complaints it's had about cancellations and refunds are "concentrated among a small number of large businesses".

The report adds: "The restrictions on travel resulting from the coronavirus outbreak have meant consumers have been obliged to cancel holidays, travel and other plans.

"The CMA is particularly concerned about businesses refusing refunds in these circumstances; introducing unnecessary complexity into the process of obtaining refunds; charging high administration or cancellation fees; and pressuring consumers into accepting vouchers instead of cash refunds."

The CMA says its taskforce is looking closely at these practices – focusing on sectors and individual businesses that have been drawing a lot of complaints.

My holiday's been cancelled – am I entitled to a refund?

With flights on a UK or EU airline, or any flight leaving the UK or EU, or any package holiday, if your booking's cancelled, you're entitled to a full refund. Yet right now many airlines and package holiday firms are pushing customers towards getting a voucher instead.

With the travel industry experiencing severe difficulties down to Covid-19, you may want to consider accepting a voucher or rebooking if you can afford it. However, it's important to understand you may have limited protection if you accept a voucher, and you are absolutely entitled to insist on a refund – though you may have to fight to get it. For full help, see Coronavirus Travel Rights

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