Online travel agent Travel Republic has joined calls for a relaxation of Atol regulations as it faces criticism for issuing customers with vouchers for holiday plans that have been cancelled.
The dnata Travel-owned agent is not alone in battling to retain cash in its business as the growing COVID-19 crisis effectively closes down the travel sector.
But the brand has come in for particular criticism on social media as agents look to offer credit notes for future travel instead of refunds to keep cash in their businesses.
Under EU Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) firms that sell Atol-protected packages are legally obliged to refund the customers within 14 days when travel cannot happen due to Foreign Office advice.
Travel Republic is understood to be giving customers vouchers for accommodation-only and attraction tickets-only bookings, which it is allowed to under the PTR’s
However, it is also issuing vouchers for package holiday bookings which, under the PTRs, it should refund within 14 days.
It is not the only company doing this and trade association Abta is in urgent talks with the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a legal work-around of the 14-day rule on refunds.
In a statement, Travel Republic told Travolution: “We believe that by offering customers the opportunity to re-book, or receive a credit note valid until next year, we are providing a generous and flexible set off options that enable them to pick up their holiday plans when this crisis ends.
“But we have every sympathy with our customers, and are working very hard to secure funds already paid to suppliers, which can be then passed back to customers for whom a credit note doesn’t work and re-booking isn’t an option.
“Like all travel businesses at this time, we are facing an unprecedented strain, and the existing consumer protection regulations have been found wanting.
“We join our industry partners and representative bodies in calling on the government to relax those rules to enable us to navigate the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves, in ways that still helps customers and supports the enormous efforts that our industry is making to ensure its survival.”