Our travel campaign has championed the rights of consumers on a wide range of issues throughout the pandemic. Here are our successes so far, plus the work that still needs to be done.
From the beginning of the pandemic when international travel ground to a halt to the tenuous red/amber/green lists of 2021, it’s been an incredibly difficult period for travellers and the sector as a whole.
Through ever-changing government advice and multiple lockdowns, we’ve heard from thousands of people whose plans have been scuppered. Overseas holidays cancelled with no sign of a refund. Family reunions put on hold. Once in a lifetime events missed.
Our progress so far
We’ve been keeping a close eye on the ever-changing nature of the travel industry throughout the pandemic. Our travel campaign has championed the rights of consumers on a wide range of issues – not just refunds, but travel insurance, flexible booking policies and PCR testing.
We have had some major successes over the last year in our fight to ensure travellers were properly protected, including:
✈️ In October 2020, two regulators – the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – took enforcement action against eight airlines and holiday companies to secure refunds for people who couldn’t travel during the pandemic.
✈️ In February this year, the CMA announced that LastMinute.com would face legal action unless it repaid over £1m to travellers after we reported them to the regulator.
✈️ In April, the Government committed to giving the CAA additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that have breached consumer rights.
✈️ In June, the CMA announced an investigation into British Airways and Ryanair over potential breaches of consumer law after they refused to issue refunds.
✈️ In July, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a letter to more than 1,000 insurance firms to remind them of their obligations to be clear and upfront about what COVID cover their policies actually offer.
It’s unacceptable that some of the UK’s largest operators are still getting away with breaking the law without meaningful intervention from government and regulators.
The CMA must take firm action against anyone continuing to drag their feet on refunds.#RefundPassengers
— Which? Travel (@WhichTravel) November 6, 2020
PCR testing firm crackdown
We’ve been monitoring the PCR testing market and raising our concerns with regulators and the government for months (we published our first major piece on it in the March edition of Which? Travel). It is an incredibly complicated and sprawling market – which has resulted in confusion for travellers, misleading pricing, and poor service.
It’s good news that the government has finally announced that it is going to tidy up their online list of test providers and remove those who are not upholding their promises.
(1/2) It is inexcusable that it has taken the government nearly half a year to properly audit its own list of private test providers to remove firms that don't exist and others advertising misleading prices.https://t.co/aRSrJ7kDjv
— Which? Travel (@WhichTravel) August 23, 2021
However, our research still shows that although the ‘10 cheapest’ providers on the government’s website listed tests costing £20, the actual price when you click through to the provider’s site can be more than three times as much – sometimes not even including postage and packaging.
Other providers offer ‘genuinely’ cheap deals but require people to travel to a specific location and appointments are extremely limited. Our analysis of social media shows that price is the key issue that travellers are concerned about, with 72% of people mentioning it and 19% complaining about their test provider.
Some countries have introduced price caps or government subsidies to ensure that people are not being ripped off for something which is a legal requirement to travel. Travellers shouldn’t have to shop around for something as crucial as a test provider – they simply need a service that is accessible, reliable, and delivered on time.
It shouldn’t be difficult – which is why we need urgent action to fix the market and make it fit for purpose.
As more and more people begin to book holidays and travel overseas it is vital that the PCR testing market is ready. The CMA agrees with us that there is a laundry list of problems in the market as part of their ongoing review and says it is ready to take enforcement action against any provider found to be breaching consumer law.
Continuing to push for for action and enforcement
As travellers have been left struggling for months to choose a trustworthy, reliable test provider and having to pay the financial penalty when things go wrong, it’s critical that the government acts swiftly to remove test providers misleading customers from its site, and the CMA is prepared to take tough action against any firms flouting the rules.
We will continue to push for travellers to be put at the centre of this market, like they should have been from the very beginning.
Have you had a problem with a PCR test provider? Or anything else related to international travel that you think we should look at? Let us know in the comments.