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It’s with some relief that I can say that we have got the money back in full for the 3 week holiday of a lifetime to Florida which we were booked to be on right now.
With so many people still trying to get through to holiday operators and airlines without success to talk cancellation options, I thought I would share my story.
Please do share with anyone who is struggling in relation to cancelled holidays.
Cancellation via the holiday operator
We booked our package holiday – flights, hotels, park tickets, car hire etc – through Virgin Holidays, paying the initial deposit in May last year and the balance in January.
When the FCO announced that it advised against all but essential travel to the USA, I headed to our local Virgin Holidays store. It had proved impossible to get through by phone but once in store, they couldn’t have been more helpful.
My options were to rebook for later in the year, take a credit note for the value of the holiday to use when we did want to rebook later, or take a full refund.
I opted for the full refund and the cancellation was initiated right then in store. I was told that the refund would have to be processed manually because it would require the usual charges for late cancellation to be overridden. Usually this happens within 5 days, but I was told this might take longer due to the manual overrides and the sheer volume during this unprecedented time.
That was all fine I thought.
I received the email confirmation about an hour after I left the store. However, it had the wrong departure date on it which I thought was strange. I replied to query this and ensure that it wouldn’t affect our refund but received no reply.
When no refund to our credit card had appeared after 14 days, I emailed to request clarification of expected time frames. This email remains unanswered.
So I picked up the phone to our credit card provider American Express.
Section 75 Protection
When you use a credit card to purchase goods or services, you also have what is known as Section 75 protection.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the credit card company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the retailer or trader.
This means the credit card company is just as responsible as the retailer or trader for the goods or service supplied, allowing you to also put your claim to the credit card company.
It’s the value of the goods you’re buying that is key – not the amount paid on the card. This law protects you if you use your credit card to buy something costing more than £100 and up to £30,000.
If you paid with your credit card, you are legally entitled to get your money back if:
- the product or service is faulty
- the company you bought the product or service from breaks their contract with you, including if they go out of business
- the company you bought the product or service from does not deliver what they have promised.
Even if you only used your card to pay a deposit or part of the cost of what you bought, you can still claim under Section 75.
Importantly, you don’t have to reach a stalemate with the retailer before you can contact your credit card provider – you can make a claim to both the retailer and credit card provider simultaneously, although you can’t recover your losses from both.
I have to admit that I was a bit worried that I might be seen to be claiming twice as we had already requested the refund from Virgin Holidays and I made this abundantly clear to American Express.
However, they were very reassuring and said that once a claim is initiated, their systems wouldn’t allow a refund to be processed by Virgin Holidays in addition to a chargeback of the transactions. Clever eh?
So within a couple of weeks of speaking to American Express, we have received email confirmation from them that the payments we made to Virgin Holidays have been reversed. The money is back on our credit card balance and we are able to withdraw this to our bank account.
If you are in a position where your holiday has to be cancelled due to current travel restrictions, please do pick up the phone to your credit card provider.
At the time that we booked a year ago, I knew we were paying a premium going through Virgin Holidays rather than doing every element ourselves and searching for the best deals. However, this situation, whilst extreme, does highlight why booking through a package holiday operator can be easier in the event of something going wrong.
There is another option if you didn’t use a credit card, albeit not one which I used on this occasion. Below is some information from the UK Cards Association website.
Chargeback is a mechanism for your card issuer to reclaim money from the retailer’s bank.
This can allow your card issuer to provide you with a refund in a number of circumstances, including:
- if you do not get the goods or services you paid for, including if the company has gone out of business
- if goods or services turned out to be faulty, counterfeit or defective (you will need to return the goods in order to get a refund in this case)
- if you are charged the wrong amount, or charged twice by mistake
- if you are charged for a repeat payment after cancelling a subscription.
We have booked flights and various accommodations for a wedding in Italy in June which has now been postponed by the bride and groom understandably. We need to navigate these next and that is going to be more time consuming.