UK GOVERNMENT URGED TO STEP IN TO GUARANTEE DELAYED TRAVEL REFUNDS
Scottish National Party (SNP) MP, Patricia Gibson continues to urge the UK government to urgently intervene to protect travel customers who are still out of pocket due to airlines and holiday companies delaying refunds.
The MP renewed her calls following her support of cross-party letter, alongside SNP colleagues, organised by consumer group Which? to the UK government’s Minister for Aviation in view of the fear that “many of the UK’s biggest airlines and travel operators are openly breaking the law by refusing refunds or failing to offer one within the required period".
The letter highlighted that a number of travel companies are forcing customers to accept refund credit notes (RCNs) and vouchers in lieu of cash refunds – raising warnings over the lack of clarity over the level of protection linked to them as travel restrictions remain in place and uncertainty surrounds future travel plans.
Patricia Gibson MP, the SNP’s Consumer Affairs spokesperson, said:
“We are approaching the summer holiday season and rather than looking forward to sun, sea and sand, travel customers are instead facing cancellations, chaos and barriers in receiving refunds they are entitled to.
“The travel sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and it has pushed airlines and holiday companies to the brink. However, millions of people are struggling to access refunds that they are owed for package holidays and flight cancellations – many of whom are facing financial problems of their own as a result of the health crisis.
“The industry's own estimates suggest that up to £7bn in payments made by consumers could be affected. It is now critical that the UK government steps in to protect consumers from being pushed into further hardship by ensuring that refunds are paid out in a timely manner and that there are protections around voucher schemes and refund credit notes.
“With many travel companies forcing customers to accept refund credit notes and vouchers in lieu of cash refunds, the UK government must urgently clarify whether notes offered for ATOL-protected holidays will also be covered by the ATOL scheme - if the customer chooses to accept RCNs and vouchers.
"The travel sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, and I urge the UK government to go further and consider proposed measures from consumer groups – including a Government Travel Guarantee Fund – that will protect the sector and strengthen the rights of customers."