Following an investigation by the CMA, Sykes Cottages has reversed its policy on cancelled bookings and will now offer customers full refunds.
Until recently, Sykes had been refusing to provide full cash refunds to all customers whose holidays could not go ahead because of COVID-19. This is changing following intervention by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA); if the company had not changed its policy, the CMA could have launched court proceedings against it.
Sykes has now given the CMA a formal undertaking and agreed to:
- offer a full cash refund to customers whose holidays could not go ahead due to government restrictions at the time and who have not already rebooked
- convert credit vouchers to cash, if customers prefer (and as long as the credit voucher has not been used)
- provide the CMA with monthly reports on how many refund offers have been made and accepted
These commitments apply to 24 businesses and brands owned by Sykes, including the Pure Cottages Group and Carbis Bay Holidays, as well as Sykes Cottages itself.
This is the second investigation into COVID-19 cancellation policies by holiday letting companies, and the CMA has again secured full refunds for customers. Last month, Vacation Rentals – another major holiday lets group – agreed to offer refunds for all trips which could not go ahead due to the pandemic, following CMA action.
The news comes as a part of a wider programme of CMA investigations into businesses which reportedly have failed to respect cancellation rights during the pandemic.
Based on complaints received by its COVID-19 Taskforce, the CMA identified holiday accommodation as one of the key areas for investigation. The Taskforce has so far received over 5,500 reports about holiday rental accommodation providers, with complaints about Sykes making up a significant proportion of those reports.
Since the CMA issued a statement to help consumers understand their rights and to help businesses treat customers fairly, a number of firms have voluntarily changed their behaviour and are now doing the right thing.
However, others are still not providing refunds to consumers and risk further action from the CMA, which recently expanded the scope of its investigation to include package travel.
Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the CMA, said: “Our COVID-19 Taskforce has received thousands of complaints about holiday rental firms, so it’s good to see our action bringing results for consumers. Sykes is the second major holiday lets company to change its COVID cancellations policy by offering full refunds following CMA intervention. We expect all companies to do so.
“As lockdown restrictions lift, consumers are still having to recoup their losses from cancelled holidays, which increases the financial worries which many people face. The CMA has shown it will act to protect consumer rights and enforce consumer law. Businesses must now do the right thing or risk similar enforcement action themselves.”