Online travel and leisure retailer Lastminute.com (0QT0.L) has missed the deadline to refund some cancelled holidays for customers, even after it was investigated by the UK’s competition regulator.
According to consumer group Which?, the company had committed to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it would pay all outstanding package holiday refunds that were cancelled on or before 2 December by the end of January 2021.
It had been breaking consumer law for months in not refunding them, the group said.
Despite this, Which? has seen reports from several customers through social media who still hadn’t received a full refund after the deadline had passed.
At the time of the CMA’s intervention, the UK’s seventh largest travel agent owed more than £7m ($9.6m) in refunds for holidays cancelled on or before 2 December. Although it seems to be paying back customers for the hotel portion of their trips, Which? found evidence that it had not returned the cost of cancelled flights to some of its customers by the deadline.
Some online travel agents have reported difficulties in securing refunds from airlines to pass on to their customers, meaning many people have reported only receiving partial refunds for their cancelled package holidays.
However, under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Regulations 2018, if a package holiday is cancelled by the provider, the customer is legally entitled to a full refund within 14 days. A package holiday is a combination of at least two types of travel or travel-related services made through the same source in a single booking, most commonly flights and accommodation.
The commitment made by Lastminute.com to the CMA was to refund all money to customers for both accommodation and flights.
Lastminute.com customer Claire Barder told Which? she hadn’t received a full refund for her cancelled holiday before the CMA’s deadline. Despite receiving confirmation of a refund for her cancelled package holiday to Barcelona, which was meant to take place in July 2020, Claire was only given a refund of £431.75 – nearly £600 short as it did not include the flight portion of the trip.
Barder was told in an email that her total refund was worth £1,010.23. However Lastminute.com told her that because of Ryanair’s policy, she would need to fill out a form on the airline’s website to apply for this refund, despite Lastminute.com committing to the CMA that it would be responsible for refunding the total cost of the cancelled holiday.
Only after Which? approached Lastminute.com was Barder told she would receive her money back for the outstanding portions of her refund.
Which? has shared its findings with the CMA, and is calling for it to take appropriate enforcement action against the online travel agent.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “The CMA was right to intervene to demand action from the online travel agent, but after failing some of its customers once again, tougher measures need to be taken.
“The CMA should uncover how many customers were not refunded in time and take appropriate action against Lastminute.com, sending a clear message that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.”
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