Latest guidance to members was issued just before Easter by Abta director for membership and financial services John de Vial
Abta’s updated guidance on Refund Credit Notes spells out clearly how to deal with refunds due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
It confirms Atol-protected bookings will be covered and extends expiry dates when cash refunds fall due if no holiday has been taken to 2021 for most Abta members.
The guidance provides standardised rules on issuing Refund Credit Notes (RCNs) since if “not done right, travellers lose protections”.
Abta believes RCNs, correctly issued, will “help operators and agents remain viable while honouring their obligation to refund customers”.
It notes many businesses “do not have the cash to immediately provide refunds” as required by the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs).
RCNs “allow the customer to amend their holiday for a later date . . . under the same package travel contract as the original booking and therefore retain the protections of the PTRs”.
They are not the same as holiday vouchers, Abta warns, which “are not generally protected by Abta or under the Atol scheme”.
The association confirms it will protect RCNs for bookings originally protected under the Abta scheme but affected by Covid-19, saying: “This protection will last for the period of the financial-protection arrangements in place for individual members, driven by the expiry period of the bonds [they provide].”
The Abta guidance also confirms: “Refunds for Atol-protected bookings are covered.”
For this to work, a Refund Credit Note must:
- Be equal to the amount paid for the original booking, or less where a part refund has been paid.
- Exclude any rebooking incentive, which must be documented separately and the consumer made aware it is not covered by financial protection.
- Identify the original booking reference and, where appropriate, Atol Certificate number.
- Be issued within 14 days and include the option of a refund, albeit this is delayed.
- Contain an expiry date. The customer can use the credit note to make alternative arrangements or seek a cash refund by this date.
- Tell the customer to retain all booking documentation and proofs of payment.
The expiry date must be within the period financial protection arrangements are in place.
For Abta members still to renew bonds for March this remains July 31.
For members to renew bonds in September it is January 31, and for those who renewed their bond in March it is March 31, 2021.
Organisers using financial security other than Abta’s must seek approval from the provider.
Businesses must state how the protection is provided and the period of validity, and notify Abta they are issuing RCNs.
The document includes wording to be included in a Refund Credit Note and briefing notes for frontline staff.
Abta notes it will review and amend the guidance “in the event the Package Travel Regulations are amended temporarily” by the government.