Customers seeking refunds for cancelled package holidays may have to fork out £120 ($150.53) in fees to get their money back if their provider goes bust.
Holidaymakers issued with refund credit notes from collapsed tour operator Shearings have been told their claim form must be witnessed by a solicitor, notary public, other commissioner for oaths, or officer of a court, as well as stamped with an official seal.
Consumer watchdog Which? says even after this process customers have no guarantee their refund will be paid.
Which? contacted 10 solicitors firms and a notary public from around the UK and discovered they would charge up to £120 to sign the Atol claim form for “outstanding refund” fees.
There were also problems in processing the forms as five companies had their offices closed. Of those that were open, two firms said it would cost £5 per document, while one quoted £20 and another charged £40, but said it would donate the money to charity.
Which? also contacted a notary public that provides this service, where three different people at the same firm gave three different quotes, ranging from £50 to £120.
Refund credit notes – promoted by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), as a viable alternative to cash refunds – are one of the options being offered to thousands of customers who have had package holidays cancelled as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Despite ABTA insisting that refund credit notes are financially protected, the government has not yet confirmed if this is the case should a company go bust.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “These time-consuming and sometimes expensive forms are just another obstacle being placed in the way of holidaymakers who are desperately trying to recoup money lost on cancelled package holidays – some who have been waiting months for their money back, and others who have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“It is unclear why the government has refused to publicly back refund credit notes, and until it does, we are urging anyone who has had a holiday cancelled not to accept one and to keep insisting on the cash refund they are legally entitled to."
Last month Specialist Leisure Group, which included the tour operator Shearings, collapsed into administration with 2,500 jobs lost overnight.