The UK competition regulator has opened an investigation into the failure of airlines to offer cash refunds to travelers who have been unable to catch their flights due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its decision followed reports that airlines may have violated consumer rights by not offering cash refunds in cases where restrictions on travel meant that people could not legally take the flight.
The CMA cited the example of consumers unable to travel for non-essential purposes in the UK or abroad during the second lockdown in England in November. The regulator said he was aware of cases where flights were not canceled and customers were not offered a refund even though they could not travel legally. Instead, many were offered the option to book or receive a voucher.
The CMA said airlines could be under great financial pressure, but that did not mean consumers should be “unfairly excluded from their pocket.”
Andrea Coscelli, CEO of CMA, said: “We will carefully analyze all the evidence to see if any airlines have violated consumers’ legal rights by denying people cash reimbursement for flights they could not legally take. We recognize the continued pressure that businesses currently face, but they have a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and meet their legal obligations. ”
The CMA intends to write to a number of airlines to “learn more about their approaches to reimbursement for consumers prevented from flying by lockout”. The regulator, who has not indicated which airlines it will contact, said that after “careful analysis of this evidence” it would then decide whether to launch coercive measures against individual airlines.
The CMA will work with the UK Civil Aviation Authority on the investigation.