The Competition & Markets Authority has launched a campaign to help holiday and travel businesses improve the clarity of their terms and conditions.
The ‘Small Print, Big Difference’ campaign is being run in partnership with the lead associations representing the holiday and travel industry, including ABTA, UKHospitality and the Association of Independent Tour Operators among others.
As holidaymakers get ready to make the most of the Easter break, the CMA’s campaign is calling on holiday and travel businesses to check and make sure they are using fair terms and conditions in their customer contracts.
It also encourages businesses to be upfront and clear with their customers about charges and fees, especially in the event of a customer cancellation.
Holidays can be an expensive outgoing with people in the UK spending an estimated £81 billion on them at home and abroad in the 12 months to April 2018.
However, some holidaymakers may have to cancel their plans due to changes in circumstances such as an illness or death in the family.
Under consumer law, businesses may be entitled to ask customers to pay a cancellation fee to cover their losses, but the amount they keep must be in proportion to what they are losing.
Cancellation terms that don’t follow this approach are likely to be unfair and businesses can’t rely on them to resolve claims or disputes with customers, the CMA argues.
A term can be legally unfair if it gives the business an unfair advantage.
Examples of unfair terms can include those which allow a business to take a large, upfront deposit and refuse to refund any of the customer’s money if they cancel, regardless of the amount the business is losing or the reason for the customer cancelling.
Another example is when a business insists on a large cancellation fee which bears no relation to the actual losses it experiences from the cancellation.
A term is more likely to be fair if it clearly explains how a charge reflects what a business will genuinely lose from a cancellation, and the way this charge is calculated is reasonable.
Paul Latham, the CMA director of strategy and communications, said: “Nobody wants to cancel a trip or holiday, but if you have to, it’s important that you are treated fairly and don’t lose out more than is absolutely necessary.
“Our campaign is asking travel businesses to ‘check in’ on their terms to make sure they’re fair.
“Fair terms are a legal requirement as well as helping reassure customers that they’re dealing with a company they can trust.
“Unfair terms can’t be enforced so they also won’t protect businesses if challenged.
“The small print really can make a big difference.”