This Week in Consumer Rights
Let’s take a look at the round of of some of the most interesting things to take place this week regarding you, the consumer:
The hotelier based in the UK and Ireland was, until recently, refusing to offer up cash refund to those who could not attend their bookings due to the ongoing COVID-19 ordeal. This stance has now been reversed due to action taken by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Had this not been done, court proceedings may have been launched by the CMA. This action applies to all subsidieries of Sykes also.
The CMA has reportedly received around 5,500 reports of holiday rental accommodations not observing the current governmental guidelines regarding refund and the like, many of which were attributed to Sykes. Sykes has now agreed to offer full refund to customers, convert them to vouchers where desired and keep the CMA informed on all refunds going forward. This marks the second instance of the CMA getting involved in such affairs, last month appealing to Vacation Rentals.
Booking a holiday
It’s been well discussed this week that there are many countries that are no longer only ‘for essential travel’, opening up the floodgates for those that thought they may have missed out on Summer holidays. Whilst there has been much discussion about the countries that are and arent’ on the list, let’s take a closer look at what you can actually expect currently when booking a holiday.
From Monday 6th, the rules regarding non-essential travel are being relaxed, although breaks have been allowed since Saturday 4th. The biggest change is that travelers to permitted countries will not be told to self-isolate when upon returning. There will be a traffic light (green, amber, red) system in place to designate how safe a country is to travel to, and return from.
The claims sum for UK travel insurers is set to be astronomical, to the pont where many underwriters have decided to drop a COVID clause from their policy. Read more here (link to travel insurance article, COVID bit if poss.) Whether or not it is in your best interest to book a holiday currently, depends on how at risk you and your travelling partners are, as well how willing you are to foot the hyper-inflated costs most destinations presently have.
Travel refunds and compensation
On Thursday 2nd, the European Commission announced that it would take action on infringement of procedures. 10 members states, including Greece, France and Italy, were found to be violating EU rules in the case of cancelled travel arrangements for passengers. Passengers in the EU are entitled to a refund in the case that they have cancelled travel plans, but these 10 countries are still allowing companies to offer travel vouchers as a manditory alternative or providing longer than the 14 requisite days to respond to complaints.
Each of these countries now has 2 months to comply with the legal precedent and inform the EU centre in Brussels of this. Many countries have, since May, tried to present the option for travel vouchers are being as appealing as possible, with varying success. In order to maintain air travel, the European Commission agreed to label the current pandemic as ‘exceptional circumstances’, ruling out the airlines’ obligation for compensation. There is a fine balance currently between preserving airline business and consumers being given their due.
Right to Universal Credit for the disabled
Sidra Kauser, 22, from Halifax, suffers with severe mental health difficulties as well as sight impairment. She is currently not entitled to Universal Credit. Sidra has, this week, launched legal action against the (DWP) Department for Work and Pensions, claiming that the current policy disallowing disabled students to claim Universal Credit is unlawful.
Sidra has her student loan and Personal Independance Payment, which totalled give her £122 to live off per month, covering everything including food, clothes and travel. Full-time students are prevented from being given the work capability assessment, meaning that whilst studying, they are left with a limited availability for work, but also no means to claim benefits. Sidra says that she wished to be able to continue with her studies, safe in the knowledge that financially she can cover any additional expenditure from things like loss of earnings due her disability.
Weddings returned to the UK on 4th July after being banned since 23rd March. This obviously comes with it’s own set of rules to reduce the chance of COVID infections. These limits are; invite only close friends and family and up to 30 attendees, this exception is ONLY for wedding ceremonies, not pre-wedding parties or other similar events, and that large wedding receptions and parties are still not allowed.
A spokesperson from the government said: “Wedding celebrations can only happen when people follow the guidance of six people outdoors, support bubbles, or two households indoors or outdoors. It is critical for these guidelines to be observed to keep you and your family and friends as safe as possible.” The main feeling is, that unless you are planning on having a small intimate ceremony, it may be better to continue to postpone your celebration. Then, in the continued hope that we move forward the way we have been able to recently, you can have a bigger celebration in the hopefully not-too-distant future.