The UK’s competition watchdog has announced that it will investigate the country’s airlines over their failure to offer refunds to customers who could not fly due to the pandemic. As a result of travel restrictions due to coronavirus, thousands of passengers have had their flights cancelled over the course of the year.
Consumer groups have accused airlines of either being slow to issue refunds or for giving passengers vouchers for new flights instead of their money back.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that it was concerned that airlines had breached consumers’ rights through failing to offer refunds.
Due to the plunge in demand caused by the pandemic, airlines have been bleeding cash since March, with many forced to ask for government aid to stay airborne.
In order to avoid paying back huge sums to customers whose flights were cancelled, many carriers waived flight change fees in a bid to get passengers to rebook for a later date.
The investigation is the latest step the CMA has taken in a wide-ranging probe of consumer rights abuses as a result of the pandemic.
The watchdog’s chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We will be carefully analysing all the evidence to see whether any airlines breached consumers’ legal rights by refusing people cash refunds for flights they could not lawfully take.
“We recognise the continued pressure that businesses are currently facing, but they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.”
The CMA has already forced a number of package holiday firms, such as Tui, Virgin Holidays, and Lastminute.com, to pay out refunds to customers who had holidays cancelled.
Unlike airlines, package holiday providers are legally obliged to pay out refunds within 14 days.