/ Money

Are you being refused a refund?

The Competition and Markets Authority is threatening to take action against firms that ignore consumers’ rights to cash refunds. Have you been refused one?

Complaints about cancellations and refunds are soaring.

We’ve heard from thousands of people who are scared of losing significant sums of money and are experiencing a real struggle to get their money back.

Experiences like this:

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

What are the areas of concern?

Based on the complaints received, the CMA has identified three sectors of particular concern:

📋 Weddings and private events

📋 Holiday accommodation

📋 Nurseries and childcare providers

It says it will tackle these areas as a priority and then move on to examine other sectors, based on the information it receives.

It’s good news for consumers that companies found to be skirting their legal responsibilities on refunds and cancellations by trying to rely on unfair terms and conditions will be held to account.

But the regulator must be prepared to step in and take strong action against any businesses found to be breaching consumer law and taking advantage of consumers during these unprecedented times.

How to report a business

If you’ve been hit by unfair cancellation terms tell us your story in the comments below – we’ll be sharing a dossier of what we hear directly from consumers with the CMA. 

Or you can report it directly to the CMA using its online business reporting form.

The CMA does say that while it is not able to respond directly to every complaint it receives, the information provided will help it to decide which issues to address as part of this rolling programme of work.

Is the law on your side?

The CMA has helpfully also issued a statement on its views on consumer protection law in relation to cancellations and refunds during the current crisis.

For most consumer contracts, the CMA would expect a full refund to be issued where:

📄 A business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services.

📄 No service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by the restrictions that apply during the current lockdown.

📄 A consumer cancels or is prevented from receiving the service, for example due to the restrictions that apply during the current lockdown.

But you will need to take the following into consideration:

📄 If you’ve already received some of the services you paid for in advance you may only be entitled to a partial refund to the value of what hasn’t been provided. For example if you can’t use three months of a 12 month season ticket you could claim a 25% refund.

📄 In some cases, a business may be able to deduct a contribution to the costs it has already incurred if it cannot recover those costs elsewhere. Instances where this applies should be pretty rare.

📄 If you are making a regular payment to receive a regular services in exchange for a regular payment as part of an ongoing contract, the business might be able to ask you to make a small contribution to its costs until the provision of the service is resumed. But this is only if the contract you have signed set this out clearly and fairly – so you might have to dig out the paperwork.

It also advises that businesses should not be profiting by ‘double recovering’ their money from the government and customers.

Are you currently being refused a refund? Feel like a business isn’t playing by the rules? Let us know.

Comments
Em says:
23 May 2020

I’m not in any financial contract with them!

But that is precisely what you are in, if I’ve understood you correctly. The deposit you paid is what brings the purchase contract into effect.

To have a valid contract of sale:

– an offer had to be made (“I would like to buy that dress [for amount £x].”),
– an acceptance given (“Yes, I will sell you that dress for the ticket price [or amount £x].”) and
– a consideration made, whether financial or a benefit in kind.

For a contract to be valid, the consideration has to come from both parties (both must be seen to derive some sort of benefit from the contract).

In this case, the seller’s consideration is the agreement to not sell the dress to someone else during the term of the sales agreement. The consideration from the buyer is the deposit. Without a deposit, the contract is not binding on the seller. They could sell the dress to someone else, if they choose. They would not be in breach of contract because, in the eyes of the law, the contract is defective without a consideration from both parties.

If you fail to make further payments as they fall due, you are technically in breach of the contract, unless there is an cancellation clause that covers your situation. Whether the deposit is sufficient to cover the seller’s losses depends on what it was intended to cover. Was it:

– simply a nominal consideration amount to bring the contract into effect, tying the hands of the seller into an agreement to only sell that dress to you?
– to cover the seller’s unrecoverable costs (shipping and alterations) in the event that you default?
– partial payment of the final amount?

In general, it is expected that a deposit is sufficient to cover nominal damages for breach of contract, but in this case (ordering, shipping, first fitting, alterations, second fitting, etc.,) the expenses the seller incurs increase throughout the term of the agreement … . Does you deposit cover all that?

There is no simple answer to your question. You will need to contact the seller and agree what is an appropriate amount.

I booked 3 tickets in December for Ibiza Live event in Norwich for the 30th May 2020 of which I paid in full £90 plus booking fee. The event was cancelled on the 21st April where I received a email saying I would get a full refund.On the 30th May another email was received saying they’ve rescheduled for September 2021 and would not be giving any refunds.After contacting them as I can’t make the new date they are saying they have no legal obligations to provide me with any form of refund. Looking for some advice please ?

Martin Bliss says:
18 June 2020

My partner and I booked a non refundable hotel in Italy at the Maisin Bon Bon to attend a wedding but because there are no flights leaving the UK for holidays we can not physically get there. We have spoken to the booking agency who refuse to help, contact the hotel itself and first was refused but now nobody answers the phone. Our messages on their Facebook page gets read but ignored with no response. We are trying to go through the credit card company but it’s not looking good either. We feel like nobody wants to help and the hotel is getting away with our money. The hotel said we could dispute it in june, it’s now the 18th and they are ignoring us. What can we do?

Sorry Martin, but if you made a nonrefundable hotel booking, I would normally interpret that as meaning you have no entitlement to any form of refund if you do not or cannot use the booking.

Nonrefundable Hotel bookings usually cost significantly less than refundable ones, presumably on the basis that the hotel and booking agency do not need to carry the costs of potential insurance refunds.

If you took out “all risks” travel insurance for this trip, or if you have any via your credit card, then you may be entitled to claim costs back there.

I would not even try to get a refund on a non-refundable booking, but Martin has done and was told that he could dispute it in June, so it might be worth trying for some goodwill.

Shirley Mulock says:
23 July 2020

Myself and 5 others also made a non-refundable booking for a 3 night stay in Amsterdam. We have taken all the same steps as you and can only get a coupon offer. This does not work for us now and because we have requested a monetary refund are being ignored. Our understanding on a non refundable booking is that if we had chosen to cancel we lose. But as we were requested to cancel by the travel company (namely because they did not have a holiday to offer us any more) we still lose! How can this be our fault? How did we end up in a lose lose situation? No one saw this Pandemic coming and where is the money? Does anyone have any advice for people like us who are slowly slipping through the net?

Francis says:
19 June 2020

Exoticca UK cancelled our honeymoon on 24th April, due to fly on 5th May.
Offered an RCN valid to 31/03/2021, at which point we can have our £6898 back.
Told them that I didn’t want the RCN and would like our money refunded, but have had zero relevant information as to if or when we can expect to see the money again

Sharon Sharpe says:
29 June 2020

I was promised a refund from a B+B in Blackpool in April, nothing, they will not answer my countless emails, booking.com have done nothing to help.

Robert Leak says:
15 July 2020

I booked a 3 day holiday in Sussex starting 20th April. On 24th March I advised the owner that due to travel restrictions we could not travel to Sussex. I asked for a refund. He refused as he said I had cancelled. I claimed against my insurance company Direct Line. Direct line will not pay because they say the Competition and Market Authority say the owner should refund me regardless of whether I cancelled. I have contacted CMA but they do not respond to individual reports.

I am not a lawyer. I think Direct Line should pay as I insured against unforeseen events, but they are refusing as is the owner. What do I do?

Maureen Craig says:
16 July 2020

I booked a holiday in the Outer Hebrides 6-20 June with LHHScotland. The holiday was cancelled due to the virus. LHHScotland refuse to refund my money. Included in the amount I paid was an amount to cover “end of holiday cleaning”, use of utilities and wear & tear. I reported the matter to CMA way back end of April. Are they purely immoral or are they breaking the law? I have posted on Trustpilot with many other people who are unable to get their money refunded, but LHHScotland flag these posts and delete them, leaving only a few positive posts from it seems former employees of the company.
If you can give me any advice it would be appreciated

donna says:
28 August 2020

I purchased an item in Massimo Dutti prior to lockdown. I requested a refund in the store after the shielding date passed, (1st Aug) which was refused, and even after escalating to their HO I have been told that they offered 30 extra days after their stores reopened.( 17th July) This does not cover those shielding? Any thoughts on consumer law during COVID would be helpful

Dannyp215 says:
31 August 2020

Hi there. Back in February I had booked a 2 night stay at a glampsite which cost £160. We were supposed to stay from 23-25-mar. I phoned the prior just to make sure that the place would still be open and that the billing was going ahead. The manager assured me it would. Then, the day before we were scheduled to arrive he emailed me to say the campsite was shut and that he would honour the booking for an indefinite period and that we could visit once the restrictions were lifted. The campsites web page contains no policy on cancellations and refunds however both hotels.com and Expedia say in their FAQs that this particular campsite does offer free cancellations and full refunds. Fast forward all these months and I am no longer with my paramour and thus no longer want to keep that booking opened. I ask for a refund and he says no. The accommodation itself (the ranch house at balloch o Dee) is almost fully booked out all through September and October, less so into November and December so it shows that he has no issues in booking the accommodation out. I have zero intent to ever visit balloch o Dee so in practical I have just given him money for nothing. Do I have any recourse? Kind regards

Sorry, the 3rd sentence of my original post should read:

I phoned the week prior just to make sure that the place would still be open and that the booking was going ahead.

Guinivere Baines says:
20 September 2020

My problem is with 3 moon majick in plymouth .Devon

I phurchased a pendant for £150 from a small shop on the 4 th September 2020
I asked the seller 3 times to confirm it was silver .
As in solid silver .
He said it was .
So I phurchased the item .
I went to pay by card as he had previously took card from me for other items in the shop that day .
He refused card and asked for cash only and made a excuse he had switched his card machine off .
So I paid cash .
On the 17 the Sept 2020 the necklace broke on the seam of the pendant .
And one of the large moons was lost as I was taking walk in a nature park at the time .
To my despair , when I came home the pendant was missing it’s large moon .
I looked at where it has come away .
The item was not solid silver as he had pointed out 3 times .
It was a rusty tin with a very thin silver plated coating .
Horrified I explained this to the seller .
At first he offered a repair .
Then once I pointed out it’s not silver it’s silver plated and he told me silver as in solid silver .
He got very anxious and refused to repair or refund me and was cold and defensive.
He was extensivly intimidating and told me to contact the seller he brought it off previously myself , who he explained was his freind .
I did and twice he gave me a false email address for them .
He was very threatening and intimidating saying trading standards would investigate me for saying it was not silver .
I explained that I am the customer and he has sold me a item misdescribed as solid silver .
Not silver plated .
Aswell as his intent to not take card know and only cash feels as it was a scam to disable my rights under card payment.
The item is not fit for purpose and is £150 and broke in 2 weeks .
He said the item was handcrafted by his freind .
Was rude , intimidating and refused to abide with the law when I quoted the consumer act 2015 .
I’m so stressed and upset as I saved a lot for this pendant and have been made to feel awful.

Hi Guinivere, from your account, you clearly established a verbal contract for the supply of a solid silver pendant.

After it broke within a few days, it became clear that the goods you were sold were not as described and also not sufficiently durable.

Hence I believe you have valid legal grounds for a refund.

I suggest that you write to or email the retailer to give them one last chance to obey the law on this matter.

If they still refuse, then I think you should escale the matter by appropriate legal action.

It will help if you have a receipt that describes the pendant.

Trading Standards are the people who should help with this sort of problem. Unfortunately Plymouth divert such complaints to Citizens’ Advice who do not generally seem equipped to provide direct help, but worth approaching to see what they can offer. Otherwise threaten the small claims court and see if the shop responds more positively. I would just ask a jeweller to confirm that it is silver plated and not solid.

Incidentally, a solid silver item should be hallmarked or, if foreign, marked with the purity. If yours is not of the purity stated the shop could be guilty of fraud.

I’m not sure about the company 3 Moon Majick. The website does not show an address for the company or a company number and I cannot see any products on sale.

There is no chance that Trading Standards will investigate you, Guinivere. They should however investigate the company. I suggest that you do contact Citizens Advice and they should refer your case to the local Trading Standards office. You could subscribe to Which? Legal for personal advice of how to proceed.

I did notice a number of Google reviews for that website. But all of them were 5 stars, which is normally a sure sign of faked reviews.

There seem to be a number of websites with the name “3 Moon Magick”. One of them showed this address for the shop:
3 Moon Magick, The House that Jack Built, 10 -11 Southside Street, Barbican, Plymouth, PL1 2LA.

I could find no other company information on the websites but I have not done a business search.

Perhaps the idea is that if you deal with a firm that features witchcraft and other mystical happenings then you should expect a bit of sorcery. That should not extend to ripping customers off with fake jewellery so a complaint via Citizens Advice is strongly recommended. The national consumer helpline number is 0808 223 1133 which accesses Citizens Advice consumer services.

I wonder how many people with a legitimate complaint about unfair trading get put off from pursuing it because of the anonymity and obscurity of the process. The theory that consumers can contact an errant company themselves and assert their consumer rights is fallible. I didn’t get the impression that a complaint would even reach the local trading standards service if CA didn’t think it deserved their attention. They seem to act not just as a gatekeeper but as a barrier.

Thanks John. I see the paranormal investigation site now, but that’s short on detail about what they offer. Maybe those who are interested will already be aware. 🙂

Citizens Advice refers people to Trading Standards, in the same way that a GP refers them to appropriate consultants. I have not used CA for years but have been happy with their service.

When your GP escalates your problem to a consultant you will hear from them and be dealt with. TS tell you they can’t deal with you so to contact CA. My experience was they – CA – don’t accumulate complaints nor follow them up, so they told me when I enquired. We need to be able to see complaints that are made and know someone is dealing with them. Time to fund a proper consumer protection service.

Here is information from the combined trading standards service that includes Plymouth –

Trading Standards exists to ensure businesses across Devon, Somerset and Torbay treat consumers fairly and lawfully. We work with the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, who can advise you of your rights and what action you can take against a trader. . . . They may pass your complaint to us – we will contact you if we can investigate your case or require more information from you.

This is a quote from Norfolk Trading Standards about “what happens to your report” –

The Citizens Advice consumer service will assess your report and, where appropriate, give you information about how to resolve the issues you have raised. They will then share the information with Trading Standards so that we can tackle wider problems with businesses at a local level. We use the information that Citizens Advice consumer service shares with us to direct our resources at the areas of greatest need. We might use this information to take action to stop the trader from acting unfairly, for example by educating them about the law. If necessary, we may take legal action against them to stop their illegal practices.

These statements are too conditional for my liking and I would expect something more reassuring. I would also like them to promise to obtain a remedy for the customer where unfair trading has occurred.

Malcolm – CA provides certain advice and if necessary refers consumers to a range of other services that can give specialist advice. After referral of my cases to TS I have had details of my enquiry read back to me. It’s up to TS and other services to follow up cases. I have had that happen but only to be told on two occasions that my cases would not be pursued unless there were further problems.

CA is a charity and many people act as volunteers. I have a family member who still volunteers part-time and she must be in her late 70s, though she must have ten years of experience by now. Sadly, we are reliant on many people doing charity work that should really be done by the government.

John – What you have quoted sounds very familiar, so this wording might apply across the country.

As we have discussed at length elsewhere we need a national trading standards service so that customers can report problems with large companies rather than expecting local TS offices to relay this information.

I think consumers deserve more than a volunteer service that just offers advice. We need an organisation that acts. I got nowhere asking about why Whirlpool were allowed to get away with such a pathetic plan to deal with tumble dryers, why Currys bad practice was not dealt with and why Amazon were not prosecuted for selling electrical equipment fitted illegally with 2 pin plugs. I didn’t need advice but a response to pertinent questions.

The service provided by CA since the days of WW2 provides consumers with individual help. At present it refers cases that require more than routine advice to the appropriate organisation(s) that are in a position to provide help and follow-up cases if necessary.

Whirlpool had a primary authority agreement with Peterborough TS, arranged by National Trading Standards – a company that does not see contact with the public as within its remit. Many larger companies have these agreements and liaison generally assists companies comply with their legal requirements. I believe that NTS should invite input from the public and provide feedback.

Until we have a government that is prepared to raise more taxes from those who can afford to pay them I see little hope for improvement of TS or National TS.

VAT is a good tax for revenue rising with spending power. Trading standards and consumer protection are essential functions of government in an economy that is characterised by largely unregulated retail and service sectors. I see no need for higher rates of tax, just better use of the taxes that are collected.

As we see here almost every day, not everyone is capable of taking a case forward by themselves for a range of reasons so the notion that the consumer can obtain their own redress with a bit of advice from a voluntary worker in a part-time office is a fallacy.

The case under discussion here and now involves a small business which could be difficult for a consumer in Guinivere’s position to wrangle with since the interaction is personal but which could be regarded by the local TS service as not worthy of their time and effort. It might even be possible for the Somerset & Devon with Torbay unit to deal with it on the telephone to Guinivere’s satisfaction if Citizen’s Advice take it seriously enough to forward if for action and keep an eye on the case until it is resolved. I don’t wish to do CA a disservice but I have little confidence in that happening since there seem to be too many optional excuses for not doing so. Moreover, it is difficult to hold a voluntary organisation to account and to ensure that a statutory service fulfils its obligations when it deems the issue to be too low-level to justify allocating resources. It might not appear to be a major problem to them but for the consumer it could be a serious let-down and represent an underestimation of its financial significance to them and thereby a mark of disrespect.

VAT is a regressive tax and raising it will affect everyone, including those who struggle to cope at present. I suggest IHT, CGT or income tax would be better ways of raising more funding from taxation. Two of our contributors on Convo have pointed out that Trading Standards is very much constrained by inadequate funding.

In Guinivere’s case I would expect CA to collect the essential information about the case and refer this to Trading Standards to pursue. The case in question is clearly within the remit of TS and once the details have been passed on I would not expect CA to have any further involvement.

I hope CA will pass Guinivere’s case through to the local trading standards service for attention and that they then take action on her behalf, but none of that is assured under the present arrangements. It will be interesting to learn what does happen in practice if Guinivere does make a report to CA and gets any feedback on the outcome. I hope she would let us know.

I find it very difficult to see what our county trading standards services actually does except circulating immense amounts of information on scams and bogus callers which is mainly recycled from other sources. In a list of many things it does not do it includes “After you have reported a matter to the Citizens Advice consumer service we will only make contact with you if we need further information or cooperation. We will only provide feedback if formal action has been taken to deal with the matter you reported“. It is silent on whether or not it keeps CA informed about results.

With much new house-building and rising populations in most areas, local authority revenues should be showing significant increases year on year for little extra expenditure on civic infrastructure including consumer protection. Population-based services such as the number of elderly people and children will require additional funding but there is normally no need for immediate additional expenditure on roads, street lighting, parks and open spaces, libraries and leisure facilities. It is a matter of managing resources and determining priorities carefully. A reduction in the number of councils and councillors would be beneficial in my view. Some parts of Norwich, outside the city boundaries, have three layers of local government so I am not persuaded that a lack of money is the real problem. A reform of the council tax banding structure would help but successive governments have funked any meaningful adjustments in valuations and thresholds.

With most food and children’s clothing on zero VAT and energy at only 5% the tax has a lower impact for those on low incomes. Income tax allowances, benefits and pensions are also structured to provide relief. As I wrote, I am not advocating a higher rate of VAT; the gradual rise in prices for goods and services means it is a buoyant tax whereas Income Tax, looking forward over the next few years, is unlikely to yield increased revenue in real terms due to the recession.

Perhaps a macabre thought, but I wouldn’t suggest any increase in Inheritance Tax while the death rate is higher than normal due to a pandemic; that would rightly be seen as callous and opportunistic. I agree that Capital Gains Tax could be tweaked to yield more but going too far stimulates the tax avoidance professions into action. A balance of fiscal measures is necessary in an economy like ours.

Hopefully Guinivere’s will report back. I have been annoyed that CA have always passed on relevant cases to TS for me but TS has declined to take action. The lack of help for individuals from TS does nothing to deter crime.

If Guinivere is not successful via our suggested route then perhaps making a claim against her credit card provider is a possible route for obtaining a refund.

It would be good if Which? examined the effectiveness of the current system of dealing with problems via CA and TS. This is clearly a consumer issue.

If Trading Standards should get involved they may take action against the retailer but will not help Giunivere recover her money.

I hope we get an update. Many people post their problem here, are helped, but we never hear from them again. If Which? required all who contribute to register their contact details then they could follow up important problems for further action, including those issues that accumulate such as Curry PCW bad or illegal sales practices on pre set up laptops, Amazon’s illegal 2 pin plug sales, and such like.

Even if you don’t register as a user you are required to provide an email address, so presumably Which? could contact anyone who post here. I would like to see users register so that they can find responses to their comments. I wonder how many helpful responses are never seen by those who are seeking help.

If you have worked hard during your life, have bought a house, invested savings to provide for your retirement, all out of taxed income then to be heavily taxed again by IHT on the excess at 40% is very unfair.

Much VAT is collected on discretionary spending. We can now choose on what to apply it and at what rates.

However, I’d also like to see the taxes that are collected spent on essentials when money is short; buying hugely expensive aircraft from the US for our expensive aircraft carriers is something I’d have forgone. Employing people in Trading Standards would be a better use of a fraction of it.

I don’t in principle object to having the best aircraft aboard the world’s best navy but the scale of the waste in defence procurement is staggering, and we do tend to delude ourselves as to our influence in the modern world. NHS procurement is also verging on a scandal and the same could possibly be true throughout the public services where inputs and outputs are out of alignment.

Enabling and empowering trading standards services is potentially catalytic. It could benefit the economy in many ways and help the UK to be more prosperous so that other desirable outcomes are possible.