Travel company Tui has promised to clear a backlog of refunds by the end of the month following an investigation by the UK’s competition authority.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had received thousands of complaints from customers waiting many weeks for their money back.
Refunds for cancelled package holidays should be completed within 14 days.
Holidays plans were ruined by the coronavirus outbreak, and delays over refunds added to frustrations.
Following the CMA investigation, Tui said it would clear outstanding refunds by 30 September.
The promise covers all of Tui UK’s different businesses that offer package holidays, including First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Crystal, Tui Scene, Tui Lakes and Mountains, and Skytours.
Roy Parry, of Wigan, had booked a £2,500 Tui holiday to Barbados to celebrate the end of his chemotherapy treatment in April.
After the holiday was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said he spent hours on the phone to Tui, trying to claim a refund.
Eventually he was credited by his credit card provider. Tui later contacted him to offer a refund which he declined, but then the credit card company asked for the money back.
“It was a lot of hassle,” Mr Parry said. “If Tui had done what they should have done and refunded people at the time, people wouldn’t have been in that situation.
“There’s enough difficulty in the world as it is. Tui added to that. They said it was a Covid issue. I don’t buy that. I work in telecoms, we were getting things sorted within days.
“I don’t think you should use the Covid for an excuse for not behaving the way your customers expect a seriously large company like them to behave.”
Customers who received Refund Credit Notes will also be contacted to be told they are entitled to cash refund instead, which would be provided within 14 days.
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “It is absolutely essential that people have trust and confidence when booking package holidays and know that if a cancellation is necessary as a result of coronavirus, businesses will give them a full, prompt refund.
“The CMA is continuing to investigate package holiday firms in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. If we find that businesses are not complying with consumer protection law, we will not hesitate to take further action.”
It has been a tough period for the sector and for Tui. In late July, the company said it would shut 166 High Street stores in the UK and Ireland. Bookings plunged 81% for the summer and were 40% lower for a scaled-back winter programme.
However, bookings are more positive for next year as holidaymakers pland ahead in the hope of an easing of pandemic restrictions.
What are my rights?
- If you have a package holiday cancelled by the provider, then a refund should be provided for the whole holiday within 14 days
- If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days, although many airlines are struggling to meet that deadline. You can accept, or refuse, vouchers or a rebooking but a voucher will probably be invalid if the airline later goes bust
- If you decide against going on a future flight, which is not yet cancelled, then there is no right to a refund. Different airlines have different rules over what you can do, but many are waiving any charges for changing to a later flight or having a voucher instead. Your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you