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Covid prompted 148,000 company complaints

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been contacted more than 148,000 times in the past year about coronavirus-related issues including cancellations, refunds, and price increases.

The markets regulator has been keeping a tally of the number of people who say businesses have behaved unfairly in relation to problems caused by the pandemic.

The CMA has taken action against certain companies in some sectors. Its action has led to package holiday providers Lastminute.com, Virgin Holidays, TUI UK and LoveHolidays refunding or committing to refund customers more than £200m.

It also forced two major holiday lets companies, Vacation Rentals and Sykes Cottages, to offer eligible customers £45m in refunds. This followed complaints from customers that they were not getting their money back, despite being unable to use their holiday accommodation due to lockdown restrictions.

CMA action has also resulted in Bijou Weddings Group providing fairer refunds to couples, and firms being warned over concerns that couples were not receiving the refunds they were entitled to.

It has also launched an investigation in the airlines sector to find out whether airlines have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take. The CMA is working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority on this.

Most complaints were at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020. The volume of complaints about price increases declined from early April 2020 and remains at a low level. Complaints about cancellations and refunds have also fallen, though not to such a great extent.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “The last year has been tough for everyone – including businesses – but that doesn’t mean that consumers, who are also struggling, should be the ones left out of pocket for holidays or other bookings that have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

“That’s why the CMA has stepped in, making sure people get hundreds of millions in refunds. Our commitment to consumers is ongoing – we will, as appropriate, continue to take action against businesses that are unlawfully refusing refunds.”