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Holidaymakers being denied refunds for multi-household UK bookings – despite deciding against trips to avoid breaking Government rules

Holidaymakers being denied refunds for multi-household UK bookings – despite deciding against trips to avoid breaking Government rules

Holidaymakers who have booked stays in the UK with several other households are finding they are unable to get refunds for their bookings – even though travelling could go against Government coronavirus guidance.

In England, the Government's rules state that you can only meet in groups of up to two households inside. 

There are some exceptions, but generally, going on holiday in England and staying with members of more than one other household would mean breaking these guidelines.

But several MoneySavers have told us that they've been denied refunds after raising this issue with the accommodation providers they've booked with.

Here's a full rundown of what's happening and what you can try if you're affected.

See Coronavirus Travel Rights for more information on holiday refunds, travel insurance and more.

'We can't go on the holiday but they want the full fee'

We've heard from several MoneySavers who have been denied refunds for bookings that if they were to use, would break Government coronavirus guidance:

  • Dave Teague, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, had a booking for a cottage in Keswick, Cumbria, set for mid-July. The booking with Sykes Cottages is for three separate households staying together, so not wanting to break Government guidelines, he initially moved it to September. With the guidelines still in place, he has tried to cancel but says Sykes Cottages asked for the full fee.

    After we contacted Sykes Cottages about the booking, it spoke with the property owner, who agreed to refund Dave after getting another booking for the same dates.

    A Sykes Cottages spokesperson said: "We understand that some households within multi-family bookings will choose not to travel due to current Government guidance. We are doing our best to rearrange bookings that are affected, subject to the property owner's agreement. Unfortunately, as an agent, we cannot enforce this."

  • Another MoneySaver, Siobhan, from West Yorkshire, also had a multi-family holiday booked with Sykes Cottages in the Lake District. The booking was for people from 10 households sharing accommodation so she asked if she could cancel, but was told she'd lose her £500 deposit.

    Eventually, the group negotiated switching the holiday to next year but had to pay extra, and would have ideally liked a refund instead.

    She said: "Clearly the Government restrictions mean that the 10 of us cannot meet indoors. Seven of us live in council areas with additional restrictions, so can't even meet one other household. Needless to say, we have had to cancel our trip. The change in date was organised by going directly to the owner of the cottage."

  • A third MoneySaver, Julie, told us she had a booking with an independent holiday house booked at the end of July. The holiday was for people from seven households, so the group didn't wish to travel.

    They eventually negotiated with the owner to move the booking to a different property next year, which should be £600 cheaper, but they haven't been given the £600 difference.

Which firms are guaranteeing refunds for those who don't want to break Government guidelines?

We asked several major UK holiday firms what their policies were for bookings coming from multiple households who wanted to cancel and receive a refund. Their responses are summarised below:

Company Guaranteed refund? What is it offering?
Butlin's Yes Offers a 'Covid guarantee', which allows guests to cancel their booking for any reason up to three days before their holiday begins and receive a full refund.
Center Parcs Yes Offers anyone affected "the opportunity to move their break to a future date or to cancel and receive a full refund four weeks before their arrival date".
Cottages.com No Considers "each customer's case in light of the particular circumstances". Adds that it "works with the customer to explore the options available, which may include a refund depending on the applicable Government rules".
Haven Yes Offers a 'Covid guarantee', which allows guests to cancel their booking for any reason up to three days before their holiday begins and receive a full refund.
Hoseasons No Considers "each customer's case in light of the particular circumstances". Adds that it "works with the customer to explore the options available, which may include a refund depending on the applicable Government rules".
Landal Green Parks No Considers "each customer's case in light of the particular circumstances". Adds that it "works with the customer to explore the options available, which may include a refund depending on the applicable Government rules".
Sykes Cottages No Says it's doing "its best to rearrange bookings that are affected, subject to the property owner's agreement". It adds: "Unfortunately, as an agent, we cannot enforce this."
Warner Leisure Yes Offers a 'Covid guarantee', which allows guests to cancel their booking for any reason up to three days before their holiday begins and receive a full refund.

What are the Government's rules on different households meeting?

Coronavirus guidance differs across the UK. The rules are complicated, and there are some caveats to them, so it's best to check the advice on the Gov.uk website for your specific scenario (it has full info on England and links to the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Generally, the guidance says:

  • In England, you should only socialise indoors in groups of up to two households. There are exceptions, for example, adults who live alone or with dependent children only can form an exclusive 'support bubble' with one other household and then meet inside with one further household.
  • In Scotland, you can meet people from up to two other households at a time indoors. 
  • In Northern Ireland, up to six people from two households can meet indoors in private homes. 
  • In Wales, up to four households are able to join together to form an extended household – so they all become part of one extended household for the purposes of the coronavirus restrictions.

Am I owed a refund if I have a multi-household holiday booked?

We asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy if people had the right to cancel their UK-based holiday and receive a full refund, if their trip would mean they broke Government guidance, but unfortunately, it wasn't able to give us a definitive answer.

It pointed us towards Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance, which states: "The CMA would expect a consumer to be offered a full refund where… a consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services."

The difficulty is that in this situation, some of the consumers may still be able to use the booking, for example, if just two households travelled together and made use of the booking.

Ultimately, if the firm you booked with denies you a refund, you could complain to the CMA, but may end up having to pursue legal action to attempt to get the money back. Given it's a new scenario and not tested in court yet, it's unclear what the outcome would be.

If you don't want to pursue the legal route, you could try working with the provider you've booked with as much as possible, to move the booking, or perhaps receive a voucher or credit note.

You could also try your travel insurer, although given the various different scenarios – such as different rules across the UK – the Association of British Insurers was unable to say whether insurance would cover you, simply saying that customers should check with their policy provider.