Holidays: Package holiday refund backlash – lastminute.com to pay over £7m in refunds

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Holidays have been cancelled left, right and centre during the covid pandemic. This has left holidaymakers scrambling to get their money back while travel companies struggle to stay afloat. Many people are still waiting to receive their refunds, despite 2020 drawing to a close.

It was announced today the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating popular travel brand lastminute.com.

The CMA has received hundreds of complaints people were not receiving refunds for package holidays cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A whopping 9,000 plus customers whose holidays were cancelled by lastminute.com are currently awaiting refunds.

This means the tour operator owes over £7million to its customers.

Many of these travellers have had to wait more than 14 days, exceeding the repayment window required by law.

However, following CMA intervention, lastminute.com has now signed formal commitments – known as ‘undertakings’ – to pay these refunds as soon as possible and by 31 January at the latest.

At least half of those owed money will be repaid by December 16.

Anyone entitled to a refund for a holiday cancelled by lastminute.com on or after December 3, 2020, will be paid within 14 days.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “Online travel agents have a legal responsibility to provide prompt refunds to customers whose holidays have been cancelled due to coronavirus – irrespective of whether the agent received refunds from airlines and accommodation providers.

“Our action today means that customers whose holidays were cancelled by lastminute.com will receive their money back without undue delay.

“The CMA is continuing to investigate package holiday firms following concerns that people are not getting the refunds they’re entitled to when bookings can’t go ahead because of the pandemic.

“If we find that businesses are breaching consumer protection law, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

The CMA has written to over 100 package holiday firms to remind them of their obligations to comply with consumer protection law as the authority clamps down on holiday cancellation refunds.

It has already secured refund commitments from Virgin Holidays, TUI UK, Sykes Cottages and Vacation Rentals.

Virgin Holidays is issuing a whopping £203m in refunds for cancelled breaks

Booking a package holiday remains cheaper than a DIY holiday, however, and also offers greater protection.

Consumer champion Which? recently looked at the price of the cheapest package holidays available online from five UK airports from both Jet2holidays and Tui, and compared them with the cost of identical DIY holidays.

It found the package holidays were cheaper in eight out of 10 cases – with the biggest saving more than £400 on a holiday to Greece.

The research suggests holidaymakers taking the package route could save hundreds of pounds on the cost of their trip, while also avoiding the risk of losing their money if they can’t travel due to government restrictions, lockdown or if their airline or hotel goes bust.

Express.co.uk has contacted lastminute.com for comment.

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