Which? Legal member Brian Gratton was one of the thousands of would-be holidaymakers whose plans were interrupted by COVID-19. His £4,355 Riviera river cruise was cancelled on 15 April due to the pandemic.
Brian promptly wrote to Riviera requesting a full refund but received no reply (Riviera says it never received the letter). When Brian chased Riviera, it told him it would take up to eight weeks to process a refund and offered him alternatives. After Brian reminded Riviera of its legal obligations, it offered to refund him within five working days.
We told Brian that package holidays are governed by the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, which says that if a tour operator cancels a holiday due to extraordinary circumstances, it must refund you within 14 days. Where your package holiday is cancelled, or if it can no longer be provided by the tour operator, it must refund you in full. We advised Brian to put this in writing as a complaint to Riviera to prove his right to a refund. Riviera’s Paul Green told Which?: ‘Once Mr. Gratton told us he wanted a refund it was paid in 11 days. Offering an £800 rebooking incentive and a refund credit note didn’t replace or delay the payment.’
In light of the pandemic, the body that represents tour operators, ABTA, advised its members to offer credit notes as an alternative to refunds. We found that many tour operators used this as a way to refuse refunds. We have received complaints about Riviera, as well as many other holiday companies, which refused to comply with their legal obligations.