Travel firms warned over refund delays as quarantine rules end for 75 countries

Package holiday firms have been ordered to stop misleading and delaying refunds for tens of thousands of customers, as the UK ended its quarantine requirement for travellers arriving from dozens of countries.

The country's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it has received more than 17,500 complaints from consumers about the way businesses in the sector are handling cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It has written to more than 100 companies it has received the most complaints about, warning them it will take enforcement action unless they start following consumer law.

The CMA stated the customers have faced a series of problems in relation to trips that could not go ahead because of the virus.

These include:
– Only being offered a voucher or the right to re-book a holiday instead of a refund
– Refunds taking longer than 14 days
– Losing their deposit or being charged a fee for cancellations where they are entitled to a refund
– Being misled over their rights

The watchdog stated that full cash refunds should be provided “promptly and without undue delay”.

Under consumer law, customers whose package holidays were cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions should have their money returned within 14 days.

Meanwhile the relaxation of the UK’s quarantine policy for arrivals came into force on Friday.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

The UK Government has published a list of 75 countries and territories from which people can return or visit England without movement restrictions.

The Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are taking the same approach, but the Scottish Government has not included Spain on its list.

Passengers departing from Gatwick Airport on Friday declared that they would not be travelling if the blanket 14-day self-isolation policy remained.

“We probably would have gone later,” said Ray Gordge, 64, from Taunton, who was on his way to Paris to see his daughter for the first time in six months, and meet his new grandson, born last week.

“It’s exciting, I’m pleased the quarantine has been lifted,” he told the PA news agency.

“It’s nice to have a bit more normality.”

Why would you think that sleeping on a river cruise boat was so much more dangerous than sleeping in a decent hotel in France or Germany?

Eoin Burgin, a 21-year-old student at Edinburgh University, said he was “very excited” to be heading to Basel in Switzerland to see his girlfriend for the first time in five months.

He added: “I wouldn’t be going if the changes hadn’t been made.”

Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, marked the easing of quarantine regulations by announcing it will cover various coronavirus-related costs for customers travelling throughout the remainder of the year.

Some of the items covered include overseas testing for suspected cases, extended stays and new flights home if someone is asked to self-isolate while on holiday.

Although the change to the quarantine policy is good news for most travel firms, cruise companies expressed frustration at the decision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to advise against travelling on cruise ships.

Paul Green, of Riviera Travel, told PA it is “nonsensical” that people should be advised against taking river cruises in countries where travel restrictions have been lifted.

He said: “Why would you think that sleeping on a river cruise boat was so much more dangerous than sleeping in a decent hotel in France or Germany?”

Debbie Marshall, managing director at Silver Travel Advisor, said: “We don’t really understand why it suddenly happened, why the timing was such that they had to do it then, and what was the real reasoning behind it, because it’s simply an FCO statement without any kind of rationale to back it up.”

The FCO pledged to “continue to review” its position, which is “based on medical advice” from Public Health England.