Refunds: ABTA delays deciding who was liable for axed cruise
Tony Hetherington is the ace investigator on Sunday’s Financial Mail, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and securing victory for those left out of pocket. Learn how to contact him below.
PW writes: We booked through JTA Travel for excursions with cruises and cruises. Due to the pandemic, the trip was cancelled, and we agreed with JTA Travel to rebook for a later date, but then Cruise and Maritime ceased business.
We were told we would get a full refund for the £2,670 cost because the customers were protected by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
However, ABTA itself says that we will have to pay for JTA Travel, so we are stuck between the two.
Tony Hetherington replies: It’s never good to be caught between two businesses, with each agreeing you’re entitled to a refund, but blaming each other for failing to fork the cash at the same time.
What it comes down to is whether JTA Travel was acting as a travel agent or a tour operator. If it were just a booking agent, ABTA’s compensation plan would cover your loss.
But if JTA Travel goes beyond that and is much more organized than your cruise booking, it may be classified as a tour operator, and since it is still in business out of its Birmingham base, it will ask you for a refund. Will be responsible.
ABTA decided that JTA Travel should pay the bill. It explained: ‘Our decision was based on travel documentation that confirmed that JTA was acting as a tour operator, and as such they hold full liability for your travel arrangements or any refunds due to you.’
Not surprisingly, JTA Travel was unhappy with this. It would not pay, and said it was consulting its lawyers. And the only thing I would know from this is that he had ‘ongoing talks’ with ABTA. It refused to accept your version of events, but at the same time refused to say what was wrong with what you told me.
Surely, though, ABTA has the power to order JTA Travel to pay or face expulsion and loss of the valuable assurance that ABTA membership provides to its customers? It’s a simple question, but trying to get a simple answer from ABTA was like trying to nail Jelly to the wall.
ABTA pointed me to its code of conduct. It runs up to 16 pages with two more documents on top, and a 47-page guide, where I eventually found that ABTA expects refunds to be issued within 14 days, and certainly no later than 30 days.
But then ABTA pulled the rug from under their feet, admitting to me that JTA Travel was a tour operator and should issue a refund, in fact it was still in discussion with the Birmingham business.
Holidaymakers rely heavily on ABTA to regulate its members and, if necessary, enforce its rules. Failing to implement your decisions, and then having second thoughts, is not reassuring.
ABTA has given you a clear indication that it has made up its mind and has ordered JTA Travel to pay you. But when I asked about its enforcement powers, it was about bush. And it finally went back to chewing it up with JTA Travel, as it had been doing months ago.
Then, at the last minute, came an unexpected fairy godmother in the shape of Tesco Bank. You paid for the cruise with your Tesco bank card, and strictly speaking, it’s too late to ask you bank to take the cash back. But the bank has done exactly that.
Because you have been harassed by both ABTA and JTA Travel, Tesco Bank is going to credit your card with the full £2,670.
The bank will then counter it with JTA Travel, and you will help me with all the necessary evidence as you have told me. Whoever wins that fight, it strikes me that ABTA will be the real loser in terms of its reputation.
Why all this hassle to eliminate bank insurance?
LB writes: For many years we have Lloyds Bank current account which comes with free insurance for mobile phone, travel, AA breakdown and card loss.
We have never used insurance, so when Lloyds said it wanted to charge £14.95 a month in the future, we decided to cancel the cover.
However, our branch says that we need to close the account and open a new one, and first we need to make an appointment to discuss this with a consultant.
Option: According to Lloyds, the insurance can be canceled by internet banking or telephone
Tony Hetherington replies: According to Lloyds, insurance can be canceled through internet banking that you don’t have, or by telephone, although you found that the number was permanently linked. The third option was to go to your branch and cancel the insurance, but when you did, the manager and staff said that they could not remove the insurance easily. You will have to have a meeting with a ‘consultant’ who I imagine is a salesperson.
I asked the bank to clarify, and a spokesperson told me that you can switch to a classic account with the same type of code and account number, so all your direct debits and so on will remain unchanged.
But you still had to make an appointment to see an advisor, even though the bank itself was moving the goalposts and a meeting might include working hours.
The bank’s complaints department has now credited £30 to your account, apologizing for the poor service, and if you want to stay with Lloyds, the staff say they’d rather call you than expect you to. Will arrange to call.
If you believe you are the victim of financial misconduct, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Due to the high volume of inquiries, individual answers cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret are non-returnable.
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