The regulator, which is closing an investigation opened in June, says the law "lacks clarity". The Competition and Markets Authority believes that "the law does not give passengers a clear enough right to a refund in the unusual circumstances" of confinements, it said in a statement.
announced in a statement.
The CMA "can only apply the law that exists" and "has therefore decided to close this investigation", it added. The Competition Authority had taken up the case in June of travellers who had not been reimbursed for flights they had been unable to take because of restrictions linked to the health crisis.
According to the CMA, during the periods of confinement, British Airways simply offered vouchers for future travel or ticket changes. The latter option had also been offered by Ryanair. "It is very unfair that passengers are being left to foot the bill when they were complying with the law (...) while British Airways and Ryanair have been allowed to keep their money for flights that people could not legally take," consumer group Which? told AFP. "The current rules are not working," it added, calling on the government to "review the rules and strengthen consumer protection".
The law states that customers have the right to a refund within 14 days, but this right applies "when an airline cancels a flight, because the company cannot provide the agreed service", the CMA said. "But the law is not clear on the issue (...) where the flight is maintained but passengers are legally prevented from taking it". "We hope that the law will be clarified in this matter", while "passengers have been unfairly prejudiced", commented Andrea Coscelli, CMA director general, in the statement.
British Airways responded in a statement to AFP, saying it had "complied with the law at all times, issuing nearly 4 million refunds and offering a very flexible booking policy allowing millions of passengers to change their travel dates or destination".
Ryanair "welcomed the CMA's decision", saying "passengers had the option to change their booking without charge, which many chose to do".
However, the CMA said it had already secured refund commitments worth "hundreds of millions of pounds" from companies such as Lastminute.com, Virgin Holidays and the UK arm of tour operator TUI, while tour packages are covered by different regulations.
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