Coronavirus: Holiday firm forced to reverse no-refund policy

It is the first significant success for regulators in forcing holiday lettings firms to offer refunds for bookings cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Getty)

Holiday rental company Vacation Rentals, which operates sites including Hoseasons and Cottages.com has been forced to change its policy to offer refunds for holidays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vacation Rentals was reported to the competition watchdog after initially refusing to give money back to customers whose holidays had been cancelled.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that of around 4,500 reports about UK holiday rental companies, a “significant proportion” of complaints were about Vacation Rentals.

The firm – which runs several brands such as Welcome Cottages and Blue Chip Holidays – has now made a formal commitment to the CMA that it will give customers whose stays were affected by the coronavirus the option of a full refund.

It is the first significant success for regulators in forcing holiday lettings firms to offer refunds for bookings cancelled because of the pandemic.

Other lettings firms will now come under “further scrutiny” as the regulator continues to investigate the sector, with other holiday companies still refusing to offer customers their money back, despite clear consumer law on refunds, the CMA said.

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The CMA warned it could take court action against companies that refuse to treat customers fairly amid the coronavirus crisis.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We welcome this step and other holiday lets firms must now follow suit.

“We know the pandemic is presenting businesses with challenges too, but it’s not right that people are being left hundreds or even thousands of pounds out of pocket — on top of having to sacrifice their holidays.

“Consumer protection law exists for a reason; businesses must observe the law or face the possibility of enforcement action.”