Coronavirus: Holiday firm reverses no refund policy


Booking a hotel Image copyright Getty Images

Regulators have had their first major victory in getting holiday lettings firms to offer refunds for holidays cancelled because of coronavirus.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Vacation Rentals, which operates sites including Hoseasons and Cottages.com, had changed its policy.

The CMA said a “significant proportion” of its holiday lettings complaints were about Vacation Rentals.

Other lettings firms would face now face “further scrutiny”, the CMA said.

The regulator said Vacation Rentals voluntarily changed its policy after originally failing to offer refunds to all customers whose trips were cancelled.

It has now given a formal commitment that customers will have the option of a full refund if a booking has been cancelled because of restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, the CMA said: “The CMA’s Covid-19 Taskforce has so far received around 4,500 reports about UK holiday rental companies, with complaints about Vacation Rentals making up a significant proportion of those reports.”

But despite consumer law on refunds being clear, the regulator said other holiday lets firms had not yet agreed to do the same.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “Our Covid-19 Taskforce is working hard to ensure that consumers get what they are entitled to, so it’s good news that Vacation Rentals has agreed to offer people the refunds they are due. We welcome this step and other holiday lets firms must now follow suit.”

He acknowledged that some firms faced financial challenges, “but it’s not right that people are being left hundreds or even thousands of pounds out of pocket – on top of having to sacrifice their holidays.

“Consumer protection law exists for a reason; businesses must observe the law or face the possibility of enforcement action.”

The CMA said that common complaints it had received included companies refusing to provide full refunds at all or offering only vouchers instead of cash refunds.