Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, I’ve been inundated with more questions than ever from customers as to how to get refunds when events, flights and holidays are cancelled or when a service is no longer available. The problem is that there so much information out there and some companies are not playing fair when it comes to issuing refunds which they are legally obliged to action. However, worry not, I’ve got your back and have come up with this simple guide to getting your money back if a refund is due.
Companies are permitted to offer alternatives for cancellations such as vouchers or credit notes but they must also offer a cash refund within 7 days for flights or 14 days for package holidays. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you are legally entitled to this refund. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will challenge the companies that do not comply.
A refund credit note can be used to rearrange a trip for a later date but to be valid it must have the original booking details attached to it. ATOL backed Refund Credit Notes issued between 10th March and 30th December 2020 for a cancelled package holiday are protected by the government so that you don’t lose your money if the company goes under. Customers may choose to cash in their credit notes instead. However they need to either use them or cash them in for a full refund by 30th September 2021.
Vouchers do not have the same type of protection as credit notes. They are simply a way for the airline to keep the money and provide an alternate service at a later date when the voucher is redeemed. Vouchers are classed as compensation and are not ATOL protected.
It’s worth remembering that disinclination to travel is not a valid reason for a refund so if you cancel your holiday or flight because you no longer wish to travel then you are not automatically entitled to one. If you still have a balance to pay then pay it otherwise you run the risk of being in breach of contract through non payment. If possible make this payment by credit card so that you have additional protection should you need to claim a refund later down the line.
Up to date and official Foreign Travel advice can be found on the gov.uk website and you can check country by country as to what the policy is for individual countries. This is particularly important with the introduction of the new traffic light system for travel.
When booking, do your research well and try to choose a flexible booking which gives you as much scope as possible for a refund should you have to do so. Avoiding the need to complain in the first place is the best plan of action. For reassurance and the best protection, it is advisable to book a package holiday with a reputable travel agent and open up those conversations early with your travel provider should you be concerned that your trip may not go ahead.
How can I make an effective complaint?
Stick to the facts and be clear and concise in the points you make.
Compile a record of all evidence including telephone calls, references, dates and times to support your complaint.
State what action you expect in order to be able to rectify the problem and give a clear time frame for a response.
Quote the relevant legislation to support your case.
Ensure correspondence is documented in writing.
Well-worded letters at this stage are invaluable as they could nip the issue firmly in the bud and save you a whole lot of time, money and stress in the process! Job done!
This hasn’t worked. What next?
If you do not receive a satisfactory response then you may need to consider the following ‘if’ actions:
If communication by email has proved unsuccessful then a Twitter DM (Direct Message) may result in a quicker response. Most large companies have open DMs so you can message them even if you do not follow each other.
If no refund is forthcoming then consider how you paid for the product or service. If payment was made (even if only in part) by Credit Card then you are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and can claim accordingly.
If you paid by Debit Card then you may be able to claim using Chargeback.
If you paid via PayPal, then you should be covered by PayPal Buyer Protection.
Check your insurance policy Terms and Conditions to see if any are applicable to supporting a claim.
If all else fails, you may need to consider taking your case to the Small Claims Court or the relevant Ombudsman. A final letter before action will be required before you can do so as you will need to demonstrate that you have given the company ample opportunities to address the problem before escalating it in this way. Ensure you thoroughly check what you are and what you are able to claim for before filing your case and take legal advice if necessary.
If you are dealing with any company behaving unfairly then you can report it via this gov.uk link.
Where can I find letter templates and help to make my claim?
Which? provides advice as to how to deal with just about any kind of consumer issue you can think of. It has a handy consumer section where you can find simple ways to solve everyday consumer problems and there are template letters for complaints.
Money Saving Expert also has a comprehensive guide as to how to complain with step by step complaining help. Both MSE and Which? are easy to navigate and there are useful letter templates, which you can download and use.
CEO email is a free website which you can use to search for and obtain contact details for CEOs of major companies and organisations.
Citizens Advice gives free and confidential advice to people who need help with financial, legal and consumer issues.
Resolver is a free, independent issue resolution service. You just type in the name of the company that you are experiencing problems with and once you’ve submitted an issue, your complaint will be sent to the right person or team and escalated accordingly.
I hope that the above information is useful and that your claims are successful. Please bear in mind that currently you may have to wait longer for a refund than the statutory 7 or 14 days due to the sheer volume of requests. It is also worth remembering that if we all ask for refunds, companies and industries will fold so if you are in a position to accept a postponement of your trip then please consider doing so. After all, we are all in this storm together albeit on different boats.