Trading Standards advice on Holidays 4U collapse
Brighton-based travel company Holidays 4U has collapsed, affecting an estimated 12,000 holidaymakers overseas and up to 50,000 people with bookings.
Customers of Holidays 4U, which also traded as Aegean Flights, are protected under the Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) protection scheme. Once again, however, as with the recent Dream Holidays and Goldtrail collapses, the consumer is confused by the lack of any transparent protection system.
What the collapse means is that those consumers taking a package holiday (where a flight and holiday are packaged together at a single price and where the combination is required to be protected by law) will have their money refunded if they haven’t travelled and will be repatriated (returned home) if they are abroad. The CAA have a fund to protect the consumer and to ensure refunds.
The reason for the confusion is that some Agents and Online Operators will sell a combination of elements to the consumer but buried in the terms and conditions is the message that the Online Operator was not selling package holidays and the consumer has a contract with the individual suppliers (e.g. airline and hotel). Trading Standards has long maintained that this confusion can leave consumers having to take matters into their own hands and seek recompense from the airline and accommodation supplier individually. Another problem is that if the purchase by the consumer was for just the flight or just the accommodation, then no protection exists and normally the consumer will not be able to claim a refund.
So, Trading Standards advice;
1. You are a Holidays 4U customer stranded abroad. What should you do?
With ATOL protected holidays you will be guaranteed travel home. Trading Standards are aware that some consumers in their hotels may be asked to pay again for their accommodation. If the hotel insists on payment, ensure you obtain a receipt and send this claim to the CAA upon your return. The repatriation will only be guaranteed to those consumers who have purchased their ATOL protected holiday from Holidays 4 U. In this particular case, the CAA have informed Trading Standards that Aegean Flights who collapsed with Holidays 4U had their flights protected under the same ATOL (4097). So, the advice from Trading Standards is to ensure consumers purchasing a charter flight-only ticket from Aegean Flights contact the CAA for a refund as well.
2) If you are booked on a Holidays 4 U holiday, what should you do?
The Company has collapsed, so all holiday bookings are cancelled. You should not to go to the airport as flights from the UK will not be operating. You will have to make a claim under the ATOL scheme, and the CAA will refund you the original cost of your booking.
3) If you paid for your flight with a credit card or debit card.
The Consumer Credit Act 1974 applies in cases where the holiday is booked with a credit card. Section 75 states that the credit card Company are jointly liable (responsible) for the purchase and should refund in cases where the purchase is over £100 and the supplier goes bust, as in this case. If you made your purchase with a Visa debit card you will also be covered by its Chargeback scheme, which offers similar protection to section 75. So that even if a company collapses, it is possible to reclaim money, as the claim is made against a bank not the company. Standard debit cards however, have no protection and you may lose your money.
4) Can you rely on your Travel Insurance to refund?
This is highly unlikely as most travel insurers will not include insolvency insurance in their Terms and Conditions
5) Where should you go for more help?
If you are abroad and experiencing difficulties, contact the CAA for more information on 0044 (0)161 444 5810 or at the CAA website - http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=288
Those with forward bookings requiring general advice about refunds under the ATOL scheme, contact the CAA on 08444 933037 or the ATOL website http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=27&pagetype=90&pageid=12372
Notes for Editors:
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