Photo by Andrew Bone
West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas is championing the cause of West Cornwall and Scilly’s small holiday businesses amid fears that many could go out of business because of a Government watchdog probe.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said that it is prioritising the investigation of issues around cancellation policies, especially in relation to holidays which cannot go ahead because of the coronavirus.
The CMA’s Coronavirus Taskforce has seen increasing numbers of complaints in relation to cancellations and refunds, which now account for four out of five complaints being received and has indicated it would expect refunds to be issued in the following conditions:
- 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 lockdown restrictions
- A customer cancels or is prevented from receiving the service, for example, due to lockdown restrictions
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “Our COVID-19 taskforce is shining a light on some of the big issues facing consumers in wake of this pandemic. We are now seeing cancellation issues in their thousands.
“The current situation is throwing up challenges for everyone, including businesses, but that does not mean that consumers should be deprived of their rights at this difficult time. If we find evidence that businesses are failing to comply with consumer protection law then we will take tough enforcement action to protect those rights.”
However Mr Thomas is urging both the CMA and Government to make allowances for the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the ‘catastrophic’ effect it could have on the Cornish economy if the CMA’s investigations focus too heavily on the consumer’s rights.
“I hope the CMA takes account of the fact that holiday accommodation owners in the UK closed their doors as soon as lockdown was announced and cancelled bookings due to the national directive to cease unnecessary journeys,” said Mr Thomas.
“Businesses here in West Cornwall have been more than reasonable and, in most cases, have been clear that the customer will not have to pay to re-book their holiday, no matter when they return.
“I hope the CMA will consider the catastrophic consequences to tourism businesses and areas if, as a result of their investigations, they weigh heavily in favour of the consumer.
“While of course it is right that the consumer is protected from unscrupulous businesses, these are exceptional times and it is entirely possible, considering that many of these businesses do not qualify for Government support, many previously profitable hotels and B&Bs will not survive this year if they are forced to pay cash refunds for cancellations due to lockdown.
“I have written to the CMA and the Tourism Minister urging them to consider how important the tourism industry is to the economy of West Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly.”