LOVEHOLIDAYS, one of the largest online travel agencies in the United Kingdom, may face legal proceedings if it fails to reimburse £ 18 million to more than 40,000 customers for trips cancelled because of Covid-19.
LoveHolidays has agreed to send defaulted clients their money back in full by next March at the latest, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.
However, it also warned that if the company fails to make the repayment by the agreed dates, it may take LoveHolidays to court.
After receiving hundreds of complaints from Love Holidays consumers who had to wait for their money back, the CMA was forced to intervene.
When customers contacted LoveHolidays to request a refund for a cancelled holiday, they were told that once the company obtained refunds from airlines, they would not get their money back for their flights, the CMA said.
It is said that LoveHolidays was in a dispute with Ryanair over who was liable for the delays in the refund, with the company insisting last month that the airline was dragging its heels.
However, online travel companies, whether or not the travel agency has recovered money from vendors, are forced by law to offer refunds to customers for packages cancelled due to the corona virus. To ensure customers obtain a full refund, LoveHolidays has now signed formal commitments. 44,000 clients will be refunded more than £ 18m. Of that, so far, £ 7 million has been refunded to 20,000 clients.
After disagreements over customer returns, the company and another big online agency, On the Beach, left the Association of British Travel Agents in September. At the time, LoveHolidays, which is allowed to transport 1.1 million passengers a year, said that package tour laws requiring businesses to issue refunds within 14 days were not meant to cope with delays of the scale seen since March.
By the end of March at the latest, after reviewing the financial information of the firm, the regulator approved LoveHolidays’ promise to refund customers in full.
The repayments will come in two parts. For trips cancelled before Nov. 1, refunds for hotel accommodation and transfer costs must be made by Dec. 31. Starting in January, consumers can obtain refunds within 14 days of canceling a holiday for hotels and transfers. Customers will have to wait longer by the end of February or March for refunds on their flights, depending on when their vacation has been cancelled, said Andrea Coscelli, Managing Director: “Travel agents have a legal obligation to promptly refund customers whose vacation has been cancelled due to coronavirus.”
“Our action today means LoveHolidays customers now have certainty about when they will get their money back, and without undue delay.”
In eight months, LoveHolidays said it made refunds worth the equivalent of 10 years, but admitted it still has “more to do.”
LoveHolidays claimed that the burden on package tour operators was ‘exacerbated by the failure of some airlines to fulfill their legal refund obligations’ and demanded that, at the point of booking, money charged for flights was passed directly to the airlines.
“A LoveHolidays spokesperson said, “We sincerely thank our customers for their continued patience and apologize for the processing of their refunds that has taken far longer than normal.
“While we have made significant progress, there is clearly more to do, particularly with airline refunds, and we urge all parts of the tourism sector to work together to ensure customers receive a refund as quickly as possible.”
But The Consumer Organization? For failing to pay clients, LoveHolidays has called it “one of the worst offenders”
Editor of Which, Rory Boland? “Travel said, “While it is correct that the regulator has stepped in, consumers – who are legally entitled to a refund within 14 days – would be disappointed that the CMA is allowing the online travel agency to postpone such refunds by another month after they have already waited months.
LoveHolidays is one of countless travel agencies that this year have let customers down on refunds, highlighting the need for refunds.