Published on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

See video for Kane Pirie's 'It's Right to Refund' campaign

VIVID Travel owner Kane Pirie has launched a campaign which goes against what many travel companies are doing to ease the impact of coronavirus cancellations.

While most of the industry is trying to encourage customers affected by pandemic travel restrictions to rebook or accept vouchers, Pirie believes credit vouchers are unnecessary and 'very unfair' to customers.

The former chief executive of Travel Republic said companies across the industry are now ignoring the law and 'it's descending into chaos'.

He has launched a petition calling for the Prime Minister to 'bring some order back with a simple grace period and a strong message to travel companies taking the law into their own hands' and has released a video featuring a customer in distress.

"A grace period is exactly what was put in place for car MOTs and has none of disadvantages of a voucher or the 'credit refund' proposed by ABTA," he said.

"It also allows travel companies to prioritise customers in the greatest financial distress. The credit refund suggestion has been taken, mischievously, as a green light by some in the industry for vouchers which never redeem to cash. Totally unfair to customers and totally unlawful."

He said he has spoken to many customers over the past few weeks who are 'literally in tears, at their wits end with money worries' and cannot afford to pay their household bills 'yet they have thousands of pounds sitting with their travel company that they can't access'.

He argues that ATOL and chargeback protection is unclear with vouchers and, so far, the CAA has refused to give clarification.

ABTA has come under fire for advising members that where they're unable to issue cash refunds to clients within the 14-day period required under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations, they can offer 'refund credits' that can be used to rebook or cashed in at a later date.

But some agents - and customers - have expressed concerns that the credits won't be ATOL-protected.

Some ABTA members have wrongly been telling customers that the PTRs have already been changed to allow them to deny cash refunds and issue credit or vouchers.

Pirie believes the only change that should be made to the PTRs is to extend the current 14-day deadline through a grace period.

"To make sure that financial protection regulation remains robust and that consumers get their refunds as per the law, albeit later than 14 days specified which is currently impractical, I am now appealing to a wider audience. We are launching today a campaign called It's Right to Refund," he said.

"We all recognise tour operators will need more than 14 days to put the finance in place and process the refunds but it makes my blood boil to see some leading companies try to hoodwink customers into trading their 100% protected right of refund under their original ATOL certificate for a flaky voucher, which never converts to cash.

"They are just trying it on and hoping customers don't cry foul. It's a straight red card offence and the guilty tour operators know full well what they are doing."


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