Holiday letting terms taken to task

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Some of the country’s largest holiday lettings companies could be using unfair contracts to deny customers refunds for coronavirus cancellations, the consumer protection organisation Which? has suggested.

Which? said it checked the terms and conditions of five of the UK’s biggest holiday letting companies after receiving complaints about problems in securing refunds for holidays cancellations. The five were Sykes Holiday Cottages, Holidaycottages.co.uk, Hoseasons, Cottages.com and English Country Cottages.

Which? Claimed it ‘found terms that could potentially be challenged as unfair under the Consumer Rights Act’.

In four of the five companies’ contracts looked at, Which? Said the terms set out how owners of properties rented through the sites are allowed to cancel the holiday if circumstances outside of their control prevent them from being able to provide the property. However, there was no explain of the consumer’s right to a refund in such circumstances.

‘Which? is concerned that if the right to a refund isn’t provided by additional terms between the property owner and the customer this term gives property owners too much leeway to keep a customer’s money if a booking is cancelled – making it potentially unfair according to the law’.

Which? said it has reported its findings with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which this week launched an investigation into unfair terms and bad practice in the UK holiday lettings sector.

Hoseasons, cottages.com and English Country Cottages said they were doing all they could to help customers and homeowners including offering price-matched breaks for the same or equivalent date in 2021, as well as refunds ‘in appropriate circumstances’.

Sykes Holiday Cottages said that where customers had been due to travel on or before 7 May 2020 and it had received owners’ consent, it had issued ‘thousands’ of refunds of all funds returned to it by property owners. ‘If that refund does not match the price originally paid, as a goodwill gesture we have applied an ex-gratia credit to customers’.

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