TWO package holiday firms - LoveHolidays and On The Beach - have wrongly been delaying refunds to thousands of customers, The Sun can reveal.
Package holiday firms are supposed to offer customers a full refund or opportunity to rearrange the holiday if they are travelling to a destination on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s no-go list.
Millions of holidays were thrown into chaos when Spain, the Canary and Balearic Islands were added to the FCO list of no-go countries, with Brits now required to quarantine for 14 days on return.
Both firms are wrongly telling customers that they will only be refunded for flight costs if the airline cancels their flight too.
The Sun has reported both firms to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and ABTA.
Earlier this month, the CMA wrote to package travel firms to warn them about misleading customers and 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.
The CMA has already secured refunds for customers of Vacation Rentals and Sykes Cottages.
An ABTA spokesperson said: “Having accurate information about your booking is, obviously, really important in helping people make an informed choice about their holiday.
"If we are alerted to instances where information is not correct, we will liaise with our Members so that this can be amended as required.
"The current situation for the travel industry is far from straight forward and mistakes can be made.
"We will continue to liaise with our Members to make sure that any new messaging to reflect these complexities is correct.”
Martyn James, consumer expert at Resolver, warned package firms they are liable to refund customers who are unable to travel.
He said: “If you’ve sold a package holiday if it can’t go-head then it is covered under Atol protection.
“How the holiday company gets the money back from the airline is not the issue here.
“Ask the travel firm to confirm in writing and then if you’ve paid on a debit or credit card ask them to chargeback a refund.”
The travel firms argue that the holidays can still be taken as airlines are still flying to Spain.
Loveholidays is offering customers who’ve booked package holidays to Spain before August 17 the option to cancel and apply for a refund.
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A Loveholidays spokesperson said: “The ABTA position regarding refunds doesn’t take into account that a change in FCO advice regarding travel to countries does not require airlines to stop operating flights to these countries.”
“Loveholidays doesn’t hold money paid for flights – that money is paid to the airline when the flight booking is made.
“As we contact our customers, prioritising them by departure date, we encourage everyone to please check the terms and conditions of their booking to see what their options are.”
An On The Beach spokesperson said: "The pandemic continues to present complicated and fast-moving situations which are difficult to plan for.
"On the Beach are only informed of the changes to Government guidelines at the same time as the public.
"In light of the recent announcement and amongst the ever developing situation facing us, we are working at pace to review our policies to ensure our customers are provided with guidance as soon as possible, and will be in touch with all those affected."
Last week we revealed that hundreds of On The Beach holidaymakers have found their Spanish and Greek hotels are closed but their flights were still going ahead.
We explain your right to a refund in our guide about holidays in Spain.
CAN YOU CLAIM ON YOUR INSURANCE?
IF you bought your travel insurance after March 10 when a pandemic was declared, you are unlikely to be covered for Covid cancellations.
If you had already bought insurance, you may be able to claim for cancelling your holiday, but you should speak to your travel company or airline first.
Malcolm Tarling, from the Association of British Insurers, said: “If you go to Spain and defy government advice not to travel to a country, this could invalidate your insurance.”
But those already in Spain will be covered for medical treatment and lost possessions with their existing policies. Check your policy