THOUSANDS of LoveHolidays and On The Beach customers have been left chasing holiday refunds after the firms QUIT an industry body for travel agents.
Holidaymakers have been left out of pocket for trips they were unable to go on after their destination was added to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s no-go list due to coronavirus.
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If the government changes its travel advice to a country and you have a package holiday booked, both firms had previously agreed to issue refunds under rules set by the Association of British Travel Agent’s (ABTA).
But on Friday On The Beach resigned as an ABTA member after months of refusing to pay back cash to affected customers.
Meanwhile, LoveHolidays today quit as an ABTA member too, blaming conflicting views on cancellations and refunds.
It means the holiday firms are no longer signed up to the code of conduct which requires companies to refund customers if FCO advice to their destination changes.
‘I’m taking On The Beach to court’
JULIE Linstead, 50, from Wanstead, London, is fighting to get back £1,100 from On The Beach for Ryanair flights to Lanzarote.
The mum-of-three was due to travel to the Canary Islands for an eight-day break on August 5 with her son Luke, 14, her partner Andrew Alefounder, 53, and his daughter Jessica, 16.
But the family didn’t travel after the FCO advised against all but non-essential travel to the Spanish islands on July 27 – a week before their holiday.
Julie told The Sun: “On The Beach have been a nightmare. I’ve been emailing them and they keep refusing to refund us.
“I couldn’t have the two weeks in isolation because I work in a school, so we decided not to go.”
Julie has been refunded £1,306 for her hotel and transport costs – but the holiday firm refuses to refund the additional £1,100 she paid for flights.
She’s now paid £70 to take On The Beach to the small claims court to recoup the rest of her money and is due a response on September 28.
The policy of the two firms is to only refund customers for flights they want to cancel if and when it receives the cash from airlines.
Where airlines are continuing to operate flights, most are refusing cash refunds.
LoveHolidays and On The Beach both said all package holidays remain financially protected by the ATOL scheme following the resignations.
This means you’ll be refunded if either of the firms go bust, but it doesn’t cover refunds for quarantine rule changes.
The industry rules set by ABTA were put in place to protect customers.
If customers do travel to countries on the FCO’s banned list it is likely that their travel insurance would be invalid and they would have to quarantine on their return.
If you’re still chasing a refund, we explain your options in the box below.
The ABTA resignations come after The Sun reported On The Beach and LoveHolidays to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and ABTA in July.
ABTA had been trying to work with On The Beach to resolve complaints about refunds – but as it has resigned as a member it can no longer take on these cases.
How to get a refund if LoveHolidays or On The Beach refuse to
THE package holiday firms should be your first port of call if you’re looking to get your money back.
But if you’re struggling to get a refund, you may be able to make a claim through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
Those with trips booked by debit card may be able to claim a refund via their banks using the Chargeback scheme.
Claims apply for purchases made by debit card, or by credit card for purchases under £100, and must be done within 120 days of the transaction.
To start a chargeback claim, you need to contact your card provider but as it isn’t written into law there is no guarantee you’ll get your money back.
Alternatively, can try taking them to the small claims court as a way to get back what you owe.
To start the process, you’ll need to fill out an online form through the Gov.uk website for claims being made in England and Wales.
This isn’t a free process, so you’ll want to try and get your money back by contacting the company, and then any free arbitrator or complaints scheme first.
The small claims court costs between £25 and £410 for an online claim, depending on how much money you’re trying to recoup.
But if you win, you should be able to claim these costs back.
If you lose, you won’t get these fees back and you could end up paying some of the other side’s costs too.
You can find more details about the process in our guide.
The CMA has already written to package travel firms to warn them about delaying refunds as it launched an investigation into the sector.
Any business that doesn’t comply with consumer law could face enforcement action and this includes being forced to refund customers.
Earlier today, Tui promised it will refund customers by the end of the month after thousands of holidaymakers complained to the CMA.
A spokesperson for LoveHolidays told The Sun: “The current package travel legislation was never designed to deal with disruption on the scale we have seen since March 2020.
“Unfortunately, as a result of our divergent views on the legal position regarding cancellations and refunds, we have decided that it is no longer possible for LoveHolidays to remain a member of ABTA.
“We believe the priority for everyone in the travel industry should be to come up with a workable, fair solution to help holidaymakers get their money back as quickly as possible.
“Speeding up the refund process for airlines must be a key part of this solution, and we urge the entire industry to focus on working together to make this possible.”
An ABTA spokesperson told The Sun: “LoveHolidays has chosen to resign from ABTA Membership following ongoing discussions about refunds due to customers when the Foreign Office advice changes to advise against all, or all but essential travel to a destination.
“ABTA is firm in its position that the longstanding practice of offering a full refund when the Foreign Office advises against travel still stands.”
The Sun contacted On The Beach for comment.
Earlier this week, it said: “On the Beach and Sunshine.co.uk package holidays continue to be financially protected by the ATOL scheme and our ring-fenced trust account.”
Hundreds of On The Beach customers were left furious after hotel bookings for Spain and Greece holidays were cancelled in July, but their flights were still going ahead.
Passengers at the time said it was “impossible” to contact the package holiday website to find out whether they will have accommodation when they arrive at their destination.
Consumer group Which? has also reported on how Loveholidays customers have also turned up to closed hotels or been left in the dark about trips.