VIVID Travel owner and managing director Kane Pirie has written to MPs to urge them to block any proposed wholesale changes to the UK Package Travel Regulations.
Pirie has previously said that changes to the PTRs would fundamentally undermine trust in the travel industry, saying that at most any amendments should relate only to an extension of the current 14-day refund deadline.
Pirie has also committed to giving cash refunds for all cancelled VIVID Travel bookings, and said he was reviewing “all legal options available to VIVID Travel” to prevent what he described as “this unnecessary madness”.
Abta has lobbied the government to extend the 14-day window initially to July 31 and called for protection to be given to ‘refund credit notes’ offered in place of cash refunds in the interim.
In the meantime, it has partially taken matters into its own hands, recommending members issue the refund credit notes on Atol-protected bookings up to that date.
However, Pirie singled out the association for criticism, saying it had “green-lit” a situation where some companies were offering only vouchers for future bookings, and agents and operators were unwilling to recommend refund credit notes without a guarantee they would be protected.
The letter, titled It’s Right to Refund, called on the government to block any attempts to make changes that would “retrospectively annul customers’ entitlement to a cash refund” and “legalise operators offering customers only a credit refund (“voucher”) instead”.
It added: “As the managing director and owner of a promising young travel business – VIVID Travel – and formerly CEO of Travel Republic, and a director of Abta, I am strongly opposed to this attempt to deny customers their due refund. From conversations that I have had with real customers I believe that the British public will be up in arms if this comes to pass and furthermore, the industry’s reputation will be mortally damaged.
“I also believe that vouchers are unfair to customers and risky given their Atol/chargeback protection is, at best, unclear. If any amendments are to be made to the PTRs it should simply be to extend the 14-day deadline. VIVID Travel is in any case complying with the PTRs as they stand.”
The letter continued: “I have decided to take a robust stance against this unnecessary madness, including urgently reviewing all legal options available to VIVID Travel to stop it.
“I fully believe that any consumer who has paid for their holiday should have the right to be fully refunded – in cash – as the law stated and has stated for longer than I can remember.
“Aside from increasing the financial distress to consumers at this critical time, the apparent disregard for these key industry regulations by some travel companies will also enable them to horde cash that in truth belongs to their customers. This gives them an unfair advantage over other tour operators, committed to continuing to follow the law, such as VIVID Travel.”
It concluded: “Both our prime minister and our Queen have recently asked us all to do the right thing in this hour of need and I will personally ensure that VIVID Travel continues to do just that, including the right thing by its customers and calling out competitors who are shamelessly trying to cheat customers out of their own money.”