24th April 2019

CMA calls for clarity on holiday Ts & Cs

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a campaign designed to help holiday and travel businesses improve the clarity of their terms and conditions.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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Nobody wants to cancel a trip or holiday, but if you have to, it’s important that you are treated fairly and don’t lose out more than is absolutely necessary

The CMA’s ‘Small Print, Big Difference’ campaign is being run in partnership with the lead associations representing the holiday and travel industry, including ABTA – The Travel Association, UKHospitality and the Specialist Travel Association (AITO) amongst others.

The campaign calls on holiday and travel businesses to make sure they are using fair terms and conditions in their customer contracts. It also encourages businesses to be upfront and clear with their customers about charges and fees, especially in the event of a customer cancellation.

Under consumer law, businesses may be entitled to ask customers to pay a fee to cover their losses in the event of a customer cancellation, but the amount they keep must be in proportion to what they are losing. Cancellation terms that don’t follow this approach are likely to be unfair and businesses can’t rely on them to resolve claims or disputes with customers.

A national survey of 2,000 people by Ipsos Mori, released by the CMA, shows what members of the public feel should happen if they have to cancel a trip:

  • 89% felt they should get all, or most, of their money back if they cancel and the business re-sells their booking
  • 85% felt that it’s unfair if they have to pay part of the cost of a booking when they cancel
  • 66% felt that travel and holiday businesses do not always make it as easy to cancel a booking as they should
  • Of those with experience of cancelling a booking, 1 in 5 felt that they had been treated unfairly

A term can be legally unfair if it gives the business an unfair advantage. Examples of unfair terms can include those which allow a business to take a large, upfront deposit and refuse to refund any of the customer’s money if they cancel, regardless of the amount the business is losing or the reason for the customer cancelling.

Another example is when a business insists on a large cancellation fee which bears no relation to the actual losses it experiences from the cancellation. A term is more likely to be fair if it clearly explains how a charge reflects what a business will genuinely lose from a cancellation, and the way this charge is calculated is reasonable.

Paul Latham, the CMA’s Director of Strategy and Communications, said: “Nobody wants to cancel a trip or holiday, but if you have to, it’s important that you are treated fairly and don’t lose out more than is absolutely necessary.”

“Our campaign is asking travel businesses to ‘check in’ on their terms to make sure they’re fair. Fair terms are a legal requirement as well as helping reassure customers that they’re dealing with a company they can trust.

“Unfair terms can’t be enforced so they also won’t protect businesses if challenged. The small print really can make a big difference.”

 

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