News article

Fair terms advice for the holiday and travel industry

1 May 2019


New campaign to help holiday and travel businesses improve the clarity of their terms and conditions

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched the ‘Small Print, Big Difference’ campaign in partnership with the lead associations representing the holiday and travel industry.

The campaign is calling on holiday and travel businesses to ‘check in’ 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 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.

A national survey of 2,000 people by Ipsos Mori, released by the CMA, shows what members of the public feel should happen if they have to cancel a trip:

  • 89 per cent felt they should get all, or most, of their money back if they cancel and the business re-sells their booking
  • 85 per cent felt that it’s unfair if they have to pay part of the cost of a booking when they cancel
  • 66 per cent felt that travel and holiday businesses do not always make it as easy to cancel a booking as they should
  • of those with experience of cancelling a booking, 1 in 5 felt that they had been treated unfairly

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.

Access business guidance
A new site contains advice and information for businesses on unfair contract terms law and what they can look for when reviewing their terms and conditions. In addition, the CMA has produced detailed guidance to help businesses and their legal teams understand how to apply the law.