Hoseasons reverses coronavirus refunds policy after complaints to watchdog
UK holiday provider Hoseasons and its sister firm Cottages.com have changed their coronavirus cancellation policy and given the competition watchdog a formal commitment that they will offer refunds, after a huge backlash from customers.
MoneySavingExpert.com was inundated with complaints about Hoseasons – which operates holiday accommodation in the UK, including cottages and lodges – when coronavirus restrictions began. Some customers said they had been told to rebook or accept a voucher rather than being offered a full cash refund.
We reported complaints we'd had about Hoseasons and other firms to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), as well as to Trading Standards and the Government. The CMA says complaints about Vacation Rentals, the firm which operates Hoseasons and Cottages.com, made up a "significant proportion" of the 4,500 reports about holiday rental companies received by its Covid-19 taskforce.
Vacation Rentals has now voluntarily changed its policy and given a formal commitment to the CMA that it will offer customers the option of a full refund if bookings are cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions.
See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for info on getting refunds for cancelled holidays and more.
What are my refund rights during coronavirus?
In April, the CMA launched an investigation into complaints that some firms were failing to refund customers for coronavirus-related cancellations – with holiday accommodation providers highlighted as an area of particular concern.
At the same time, it issued a statement on its expectations around cancellations and refunds. This said that for most consumer contracts, it would expect a full refund to be issued if:
- A firm has cancelled the contract, and hasn't provided any of the promised goods and services.
- The firm hasn't provided any service – for example, because lockdown restrictions prevented it from doing so.
- A customer cancels or is prevented from using the service – again, an example would be if lockdown restrictions prevented them from accessing the service.
If you think you've been affected by an unfair cancellation term, you can report it to the CMA using its online form.
How can I get a refund for my Hoseasons or Cottages.com booking?
The CMA says that Vacation Rentals has committed to offering customers a full refund if their booking has been cancelled because of restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak.
This includes bookings cancelled by the customer due to coronavirus restrictions, as well as those cancelled by Hoseasons or Cottages.com themselves.
Vacation Rentals has confirmed that if you'd previously accepted a voucher or new holiday dates when these were the only options available, you can now request a cash refund instead.
However, it has warned that its call centre is very busy at the moment due to the high volume of customer queries, and has asked customers to "bear with us" while it works through the backlog.
A spokesperson for Vacation Rentals said: "We have been offering the option of refunds to all customers with a holiday during the Government-imposed lockdown period since the CMA published its guidance on 30 April.
"This change predated any investigation by the CMA and was made as we felt it was the right thing to do. We believe the CMA has appreciated our co-operation and the open approach we have taken."
What does the CMA say?
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 £100s or even £1,000s 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."