On the morning we were due to set off on our October half-term holiday, my daughter’s school informed us of two confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 in her class bubble. We were told to self-isolate for 10 days and therefore had to cancel the accommodation we’d booked in a Hoseasons holiday park.
Hoseasons insists we are not entitled to a refund, or to rebook, because my daughter has not tested positive. As a key worker I know the importance of following the government guidelines to prevent the spread of such an infectious disease, but am £322 out of pocket for doing the right thing.
CE, Stotfold, Hertfordshire
Hoseasons’s stance is as ill-informed as it is unfair. It followed up its telephone rebuff with an email stating that government advice to self-isolate is not legally enforceable. Infatti, it is a legal requirement if you are identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive, and failure to do so can result in a fine of at least £1,000.
Not only is the company’s response encouraging customers to break the law, it’s potentially putting people at risk. L'anno scorso, its parent company, Vacation Rentals, was forced to return customers’ money for holidays cancelled due to lockdown after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found its refusal to do so a breach of consumer law.
inizialmente, Hoseasons told me that you had been misinformed by a single agent. When I pointed out that a second agent had confirmed the erroneous information in writing, it amended its response, which makes me fear many other customers may have been similarly misled.
It now says: “It seems that unfortunately the two agents who spoke to the customer did not follow our internal guidelines which provide that refunds must be offered in such cases. The agents have been reminded of our refund policies to ensure this does not happen again. We have also contacted the customer to issue a full refund and £150 in vouchers by way of an apology for the inconvenience caused.”
I’ve previously exposed how no-refund policies permitted by Airbnb encourage customers to break Covid rules. Lo scorso marzo, it changed its “extenuating circumstances policy” to remove automatic refund rights in the case of Covid restrictions.
LH of Pulborough, West Sussex, contacted me when lockdown and border closures prevented her son going on a ski trip to France. She wrote: “The host didn’t cancel when France closed its border with the UK, nor when the ski resort shut down. Anziché, my son took the initiative and cancelled, but the host did not reply. Three weeks later, the day before the holiday was due to start, the host sent key collection information and Airbnb released the £1,510 accommodation fee. Airbnb has merely returned the £120 booking fee with a £145 voucher and the host has promised £445.”
Airbnb’s argument is that its hosts are free to set their own cancellation policies and customers should check before booking. “They are made clear before guests book, and the vast majority allow guests to cancel without penalties,” it says.
I’ve repeatedly challenged the company’s refusal to insist that all hosts cancel and refund bookings that cannot legally proceed. In vain.
The CMA confirmed that customers should be entitled to a refund if lockdown prevents a contract being fulfilled, but declined to say whether it would be investigating Airbnb.
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