VIVID Travel owner Kane Pirie has stepped up his opposition to a change in Package Travel Regulations by launching a campaign and petition urging people to back his Right to Refund message.
Pirie, who has promised to refund all VIVID customers, has previously said that changes to the PTRs would be “unnecessary madness” and fundamentally undermine trust in the travel industry.
He has written to MPs and says the current situation has led to “chaos” and accused rival operators of offering credit notes that do not protect customers’ long-term entitlement to a refund.
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.
Pirie, however, argues that any amendments should relate only to an extension of the current 14-day refund deadline to give a 6-12-month grace period – and says introducing a “complicated change to the law” like a credit refund is wrong.
His new It’s Right to Refund website adds: “Holiday Sellers are abusing the current situation (Abta asking for a broader change in the law involving a new credit refund document) to act as if the law has been changed already. They are now writing their own rules and telling customers: ‘no, we will not refund at all as we think the law will change’. There is no defence to that.”
Launching his campaign, Pirie said: “I have been trying to persuade the UK travel industry to play fair with customers over refunds due to coronavirus holidays being cancelled for several weeks, but sadly have failed. Companies across the industry are now ignoring the law and it’s descending into chaos.
“I have spoken to many customers over the past few weeks who are literally in tears, at their wits end with money worries and cannot afford to pay their household bills, yet they have thousands of pounds sitting with their travel company that they can’t access.”
“Currently there is a dangerous trend across the industry to insist customers accept a voucher, in some cases with no end date for cash conversion, instead of the cash refund they are owed.”
He added: “To make sure that financial protection regulation remains robust and that consumers get their refunds as per the law, albeit later than 14 days specified which is currently impractical, I am now appealing to a wider audience. We are launching today a campaign called it’s Right to Refund.
“We all recognise tour operators will need more than 14 days to put the finance in place and process the refunds but it makes my blood boil to see some leading companies try to hoodwink customers into trading their 100% protected right of refund under their original ATOL certificate for a flaky voucher, which never converts to cash. They are just trying it on and hoping customers don’t cry foul. It’s a straight red card offence and the guilty tour operators know full well what they are doing.”