consumeradvice.scot has received a large number of enquiries from Scottish consumers, concerned about a range of travel-related issues arising as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak. This is not just about obtaining a refund. Many consumers have a considerable amount of money tied up in cancelled holidays, which has a significant impact on their ability to pay the mortgage or put food on the table, particularly when many citizens now have reduced incomes.
Whilst some mortgage lenders are offering payment holidays, these payments will still need to be paid in the long-term.
The majority of travel-related enquiries consumeradvice.scot has received have been in relation to cancellation rights. More specifically, refunds as a result of travel providers, including airlines cancelling travel. In April alone, 39% of enquiries are travel-related.
CAA Guidance for Airline Travel Bookings
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the regulator for the aviation industry and have issued clear guidance around the regulations for airlines when flights have been cancelled. Passengers must be offered the option of a refund or the re-routing on alternative flights on an alternative route, subject to availability. The second option of alternative travel can take the form of vouchers.
Travel that has been booked as part of a package, and has been cancelled, can be challenged by contacting the travel agent that the consumer has booked with and requesting that this be refunded.
In both airline travel and holidays booked as part of a package, we are seeing consumers being offered vouchers as the only alternative, with processes for refunds being convoluted and time-consuming.
Refunds should generally be made to consumers within 7 days. However, with staffing shortages and changes to normal business practise, it is taking slightly longer.
Consumers who do not get their refund, or feel that the timescales on the refund are not acceptable, should start by making a formal complaint to the airline or travel company directly, stating the reasons for the complaint and the actions taken so far.
If a satisfactory response is not received within 8 weeks, then consumers can escalate this. for travel agents, this would be to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
For airlines, consumers can escalate this to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) if the airline has an agreement with one of these schemes. If not, it can be escalated to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) directly.
Consumers can also take legal action if they feel this is necessary.
Feel Like You’re Getting Nowhere?
There is another alternative.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers consumers for purchases made on a credit card that is in excess of £100 and can be used in some instances when obtaining a refund from the airline has been made impossible.
For purchases under £100 made on a credit card or for payments made by debit card, consumers may also have the option of using the chargeback scheme when seeking refunds. Consumers can contact their credit card company or bank to do this.
Airdrie resident, Cameron Sharp, highlighted his concerns in relation to obtaining a refund for flights that he had booked through the airline Jet2. He felt that he was getting nowhere:
“I’m still waiting on a Jet2 refund and should have been on holiday 2 weeks ago, but I’ve still not had any contact from them.”
The all-inclusive holiday to Dalaman was booked in February of this year. Cameron was due to fly out on the 18th April for a week. However, he received an email on the 9th of April, stating that Jet2 would be in contact within 10 days to discuss ‘options’. He was still awaiting contact 19 days later.
It was at this stage that Cameron contacted consumeradvice.scot and we made him aware of the options he had available.
Jet2 Response to Submission of a Complaint
Cameron advised that payment was made via a credit card, and due to a blanket response received after submitting a complaint to Jet2, decided that use of Section 75 legislation was the best course of action.
“I always use the credit card, just in case…I was giving Jet2 the benefit of the current situation.”
Partnership Working for Consumer Rights
In order to support consumers in these difficult times, consumeradvice.scot is working in partnership with a number of organisations and regulatory bodies to ensure that consumer rights are upheld and unfair practises are challenged. The nature of international travel means that sometimes complaints can cross borders, and the importance of building strong relationships with other organisations that cross jurisdictional boundaries is more important than ever.
The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland provides free, independent support and advice for all consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland and have the power to investigate complaints in relation to several areas, including transport.
consumeradvice.scot and The Consumer Council are working together to ensure that unfair practices are challenged and that your consumer rights are maintained.
For regularly updated information on rights in relation to COVID-19 and the coronavirus, you can visit our dedicated website at: www.coronavirusadvice.scot
consumeradvice.scot and advice.scot are able to offer free and practical advice on a number of issues. You can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. advice.scot can be contacted on 0808 800 9060. Please note that due to a higher demand for our service, it may take longer than usual for us to answer your enquiry.
We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot.