Over 9,000 holidaymakers that had booked package holidays through Lastminute.com had their trips cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic between 17 March and 2 December this year. However, the holiday booking firm failed to issue refunds to customers within the assigned 14-day period.
Following this, the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) received hundreds of complaints from disgruntled customers that should have received their refunds in the allotted time frame. Following CMA action, Lastminute.com has agree to pay refunds ‘as soon as possible’ to these customers.
In total, the company will need to pay out £7 million in refunds by 31 January 2021, with half of those due by 16 December 2020.
Business breaching consumer protection law
Commenting on the issue at hand, CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli 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.
“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.”
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Many travel agencies and airlines have been suffering, and there has been much controversy over operators and firms issuing vouchers instead of receipts to customers in the UK and abroad in the last few months.
Regardless of the difficulties facing the industry, maintaining open communication with customers is integral to ensuring that customer confidence in the travel industry does not falter beyond repair.