The CMA has launched a programme of work to investigate reports of businesses failing to respect cancellation rights during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Through its Covid-19 Taskforce, which monitors market developments and identifies the big problems facing consumers, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has seen increasing numbers of complaints in relation to cancellations and refunds.
These now account for 4 out of 5 complaints being received by the group and so far include concerns about businesses refusing refunds or firms pressuring people to accept vouchers for holiday accommodation, which can only be used during a more expensive period.
The CMA will initially focus on private events, holiday accommodation and childcare providers but will move on to examine other sectors when it sees fit.
The CMA acknowledged that most businesses are acting reasonably in what are unprecedented circumstances, and the current crisis is placing everyone under pressure, but consumer rights cannot be ignored.
If it finds evidence that companies are failing to comply with the law, the CMA will take appropriate enforcement action, including moving quickly to court if a firm does not address its concerns. Individuals can also take their own legal action against unfair terms should they choose to.
Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the CMA, said: “Our Covid-19 taskforce is shining a light on some of the big issues facing consumers in wake of this pandemic. Alongside price-gouging reports, we’re now seeing cancellation issues in their thousands. So far, the CMA has identified weddings, holiday accommodation and childcare as particular areas of concern.
Adding: “The current situation is throwing up challenges for everyone, including businesses, but that does not mean that consumer rights can fall by the wayside. If we find evidence that businesses are failing to comply with consumer protection law then we will get tough – that means launching enforcement cases and moving to court action where there is a strong reason to do so.”