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Why am I caught between Abta and Visa over a £400 cruise refund?

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<span>Photograph: Fraser Gray/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Fraser Gray/Rex/Shutterstock

I booked a holiday with Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) in May 2020, paying a £400 deposit with my Santander Visa debit card. The company went into administration in July and I was sent an email by Abta, telling me to use its template letter to ask my bank to make a chargeback.

I sent this, along with a form the bank branch provided, to Santander, and it reimbursed me at the end of August. However, it wrote back in December saying my chargeback claim had been rejected and then the money was taken back. I had no explanation, except that “every case was different” and the decision was Visa’s, not the bank’s. Santander said Abta should reimburse me.

But Abta insists I claim from my bank, despite me telling it that this has failed.

I do not know who is at fault. Visa’s website says its chargeback scheme is discretionary and Abta is washing its hands of it.

SH, Truro

A look at Abta’s Trustpilot page suggests that you are by no means alone in trying to get your money back from CMV. Customers of the cruise firm, some of whom have been waiting more than a year for refunds, are queueing up on the site to report similar experiences.

Having spent rather too long trying to get to the bottom of it, it seems to me that Abta is responsible for providing the refund.

In the past, travellers have been able to make successful chargeback claims from failed travel firms, which is maybe why Abta was pushing the 80,000 customers thought to be caught up in CMV’s collapse towards their banks.

However, when it became clear that CMV’s administrators were refusing chargeback claims – as happened to you - it should have acted sooner.

Abta apologised this week and claimed it has “tried to minimise delays and provide assistance to customers, all of whom will receive 100% refunds”.

Happily for you, though, Santander has come to your aid. While it maintains Abta was responsible, it has agreed to refund you the £400 as a gesture of goodwill. It did so on the basis that it had made your refund process “unnecessarily complex”.

I would advise others in the same boat to persist with their claims to Abta. And always book direct and pay by credit card rather than debit card. I cannot reiterate this enough.

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