CMA tells UK travel firms ‘be upfront on fees’

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wants travel firms to check their terms and conditions are fair and to be more upfront about fees and charges, especially for cancellation.

The CMA launched a ‘Small Print Big Difference’ campaign on Wednesday with the backing of UK travel associations Abta and Aito and the UKhospitality association.

It said demanding a large deposit and refusing a refund if a customer cancels, regardless of the reason, is unfair – as is charging a cancellation fee which bears no relation to the cost to the business.

The authority noted terms are more likely to be ‘fair’ if they explain clearly how a charge is calculated.

A CMA-commissioned survey of 2,260 UK adults found 89% felt they should receive most or all of their money back if a holiday they cancel is re-sold, two-thirds (66%) felt travel firms don’t always make it easy to cancel and one in five of those who have cancelled a holiday felt they had been unfairly treated.

Previous CMA research in 2016 suggested 85% of business owners “aren’t familiar with the Consumer Rights Act” which covers terms and conditions.

CMA director of strategy and communications Paul Latham said: “Fair terms are a legal requirement [and] reassure customers they’re dealing with a company they can trust. Unfair terms can’t be enforced so they won’t protect businesses if challenged.”

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We recognise the importance of customers feeling confident. A cancellation charge must genuinely reflect the costs of cancellation.”

A CMA spokeswoman insisted: “Stimulating consumer complaints is not the aim of this campaign. The purpose is to help prevent disputes. If you can’t understand your terms and conditions, your customers aren’t likely to.”

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