Travolution Leaving Lockdown: Legal expert calls for clarity on COVID rules

Constant changes of government COVID policy continues to cause confusion for travel firms which were advised to review what responsibility they accept for disruption in their terms and conditions.

Speaking at the Travolution Leaving Lockdown event Lucy England, partner at specialist travel law firm Fox Williams, said that although the issue of mass refunds was over each booking is unique.

She said while the Package Travel Regulations were not altered to take account of the pandemic firms were forced to work out what rights customers had and what they could say in their terms.

“What’s been emphasised in the last year or so is it’s one thing what the PTRs are saying and its another thing what your booking conditions might be say, so you’re still promising more than you need to.

“While things are still changing, I think, most people have figured out what that means but the confusion that constant change that the government has brought in just means that needs to be understood at first and then there’s educating customer service teams to tell the customers what that means.

“The mass cancellations and mass and mass refunds have stopped, to a point, but every traveller booking is very unique and that’s where time comes in to understand what it means per traveller. So the legal background hasn’t changed, but the impact is still considerable.”

England said as the UK moves away lockdown firms are working on the customer experience to make sure they can deliver the right messaging if circumstances change unexpectedly.

She said “consumer law is all about clarity, openness and certainty” and it is “cumbersome” the things firms have to read out or make available all the terms related to traffic light systems and testing but if they do not they will trip themselves up.

Much of the misalignment with Foreign Office and government COVID rules has now been cleared up after the Competition Markets Authority has clarified its position, said England.

In the future the industry wants government to make a decision about the traffic light system, which determined if returning travellers need to quarantine, and stick to it.

“Make a decision and stick to it and then people will be fine, and won’t have to rethink the decisions they made yesterday about what’s going to happen tomorrow. For me, we need clarity things not changing other than for pubic health reasons, which is not going to go away.”

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