A Which? Legal member got in touch after her booking for a cottage holiday coincided with the coronavirus lockdown. Although the trip was cancelled, the cottage company, Together Travel, told her it wasn’t able to give refunds and offered a voucher instead, which had to be used within one year.
The member was disappointed – the six-day retreat had cost her £1,300. As an NHS key worker, her annual leave had been cancelled indefinitely due to the pandemic and she was unsure when she might be able to rebook. But Together Travel still said it couldn’t refund her.
As the cottage was booked during lockdown, it was impossible for the contract to be fulfilled by the cottage company. We advised that under the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943, the contract had become impossible to carry out and the member should receive a refund. We also advised the member to ask for their request to be forwarded to the owner of the cottage. Subsequently, the member received a full refund from Together Travel.
When you’re making a booking, check whether the company is acting as an agent. If its terms and conditions confirm that its role is as an intermediary, your claim is with the service provider. This argument is focused on the doctrine of ‘frustration’, which can be difficult to argue if there is a glimmer of hope that a contract will be fulfilled. Most contracts will also have specific terms, called a force majeure clause, that layout the way in which extraordinary circumstances will be handled. We approached Together Travel for a reply, but it declined to provide a comment.