FRUSTRATED Lastminute.com customers have been let down again as the travel agent misses its refunds deadline for holidays cancelled last year.
Disappointed would-be travellers are still missing some of their cash even though the watchdog ruled that they must be paid back by the end of January.
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After months of breaking the rules on refunds, Lastminute.com was investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
At the time of the CMA’s intervention, Lastminute.com owed more than £7 million in refunds for holidays cancelled on or before 2 December.
Following the investigation, the booking site agreed to pay all outstanding package holiday refunds for these trips by January 31, 2021.
Despite this, consumer group Which? has uncovered several customers who still haven’t received a full refund even though the deadline has passed.
The holiday site seems to be paying back customers for hotel bookings, but Which? found evidence that it had not returned the cost of cancelled flights.
But the commitment made by Lastminute.com to the CMA was to refund the total costs of holidays to customers including.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Despite being given ample time to return all outstanding refunds to customers – as well as clear instructions regarding its liability for refunding both accommodation and flight costs – Lastminute.com has failed to meet this commitment to the regulator.
“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. “
Travel: What are your rights to a refund?
MILLIONS of Brits have had holiday plans cancelled.
Firstly, speak to your airline or holiday firm about a refund or rearranging your plans.
You are entitled to a cash refund if they’ve cancelled your holiday but many have large delays or may offer vouchers instead.
If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to countries or regions, you may also be covered for cancellations by your travel insurance if the holiday provider or airline is not helping you.
Keep in mind the travel insurance must have been taken out before the FCO advice changed, otherwise you won’t be covered.
If you don’t have travel insurance, you may be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
Debit card claims or credit card claims of under £100 may be covered under similar Chargeback guarantees.
Sheryl McLeod said she booked a holiday for two adults and two children to Barcelona for July 2020 through Lastminute.com.
She told Which? that in June an agent from Lastminute.com advised her the flights and hotel were cancelled and there were no alternatives, so the trip would be refunded.
Sheryl then heard nothing for months and struggled to speak to someone at the booking agents.
In September she was told by email that her refund was ready and she selected to receive cash.
For months afterwards Lastminute.com said it was finalising her refund. Then, on 27th January, she was sent £932.49 – more than £300 short of the £1274.68 she was owed.
When Sheryl tried to chase up this discrepancy by phone, she was met with an automated message to log into Lastminute.com.
But when she tried online, the trip was listed under ‘past bookings’, with no mention of the missing money, or anything to help her apply for it.
Claire Barder is another Lastminute.com who 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, 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 flights.
Claire was told in an email that her total refund was worth £1,010.23. However Lastminute.com said that because of Ryanair’s policy, she would need to fill out a form on the airline’s website to get the money she was owed.
After Which? approached Lastminute.com both customers were told they would receive their outstanding money back.
Which? has shared its findings with the CMA, and is calling for it to take appropriate enforcement action against the online travel agent.
Rory said: “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.”
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.
Lastminute.com said: “We’d like to start by saying that the refund process has been a very complex and difficult process due to the length and severity of the ongoing pandemic and frequent changes in the travel advice rules.
“Each customer request is unique, and often requiring a human touch-point and we’ve been working hard to get the money processed back through the system and into our customer’s pockets as quickly as possible.”
LastMinute.com confirmed that both the customers Which? spoke to have now been fully refunded including the money for flights.
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