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Published on Friday, April 24, 2020

Kane Pirie prepares for legal action against Government over refunds row

Kane Pirie, the founder of the Right to Refund campaign, says he is preparing for legal action against the UK Government should it decide to allow travel companies 12 months' grace to pay customer refunds.

Any legal action will be funded by RTR limited, of which Pirie is the financial backer.

The managing director of VIVID Travel and former chief at Travel Republic said a 12-month wait, as advocated by ABTA, would be 'wholly unacceptable, unnecessarily long and unfair to customers'.

"Despite private and public lobbying through our campaign, which today has momentum building towards 20,000 supporters, to persuade ABTA to a more moderate position, we must now recognise that we have failed to move them," said Pirie, who resigned his company from ABTA earlier this week.

"We have therefore been preparing the groundwork to protect customers' Right To Refund through the courts if necessary. We cannot and will not accept 12 months."

He said legal advisors, Kingsley Napley, has reviewed the responses of other European countries to the current crisis.

"Across the different markets, the windows vary from six, 12 or 18 months within which time companies need not issue refunds. We have of course have chosen the shortest possible date for consumers, which is six months, and have written to the Government today detailing our position."

Pirie, who previously won a landmark case brought by the CAA over an alleged breach of ATOL regulations, confirmed that the key points within the letter advocate a six-month Extraordinary Circumstances window from March 17 to September 17 2020, but should only apply to customers who are not in financial distress.

For customers in urgent need of their own money back, Right To Refund argues the 14-day rule should still be vigorously enforced, even during the Extraordinary Circumstances window.

"Not everyone is rich. Most people push the boat out for their holiday and for those now struggling financially due to lockdown every day of waiting counts," said Pirie.

He believes that if the Government backed the plan it would be an unprecedented and generous 'loan' from the consumer to the travel companies that have not already met their refund obligations and would provide, in effect, six months from the beginning of the crisis for those travel companies to arrange finance from the proper channels: shareholders and banks, not customers.

"In short, travel companies could not in all seriousness ask for or expect any longer. It is obviously unnecessary. We are hopeful the Government will support this measured and balanced compromise, which we believe works well for both consumers and travel companies.

"We will also be seeking to open a direct dialogue with the relevant Minister to explain our case in more detail and to convey the swelling anger and frustration many customers feel."


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