Holidaymakers are being advised to avoid some travel companies because of their failure to offer refunds for Covid-disrupted trips, under the first-ever blacklist by consumer group Which?.
Major firms including Teletext, Lastminute.com, Love Holidays and On The Beach are among the firms to avoid because of failings over refunds or a lack of transparency over repayment policies, including holidays cancelled by Test and Trace pings.
It is the first time Which? has advised consumers against using named companies based on research into more than 80 companies in which they are rated Green+, Green, Amber or Red.
At least two of the companies (Love Holidays and Teletext) have faced investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over their failure to refund their customers.
“The difference between choosing a Red company over a Green company could be losing the entire cost of your holiday if circumstances change and you have to amend or cancel your plans,” said Rory Boland, editor, Which? Travel.
The firms were assessed against a set of scenarios on whether they would issue refunds if holidays were disrupted or cancelled due to a Government travel ban, unanticipated quarantine, or being forced to self-isolate after being pinged by Test and Trace.
Green companies that committed to offering refunds in most scenarios put to them by Which? included British Airways Holidays, First Choice, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays, Trailfinders and Tui.
Only three companies – Exodus, Explore and Discover Egypt – guaranteed refunds if holidaymakers were pinged as well as every other situation put to them by Which?. They were rated Green+ as a result.
Watch: Airline refunds: What are your rights as a consumer?'
Mr Boland said: “Between changing travel restrictions, both in the UK and abroad, and the ongoing risk of being told to self-isolate, booking a foreign trip still comes with some uncertainty and things can go wrong if you’ve chosen the wrong provider.
“The best companies won’t leave you high and dry though, so it’s vital to do your research before booking.”
An On the Beach spokesman said the company aimed to provide customers with as much flexibility as possible.
“If the FCDO advises against travel to a destination, our customers can change their holiday destination or dates free of charge, and we will waive any of our admin fees,” he said.
“If they wish to cancel their holiday, we will fully refund hotel and transfer costs, and our regulated, ring-fenced trust account means that we are able to do this quickly and always in cash rather than credit notes or vouchers.”
Lastminute.com, Love Holidays and Teletext did not provide comment.
On Wednesday, Which issued a clarification to its list stating: "Several companies have now come forward, at the very last minute, to clarify their policies – we will therefore be removing the following companies from the tool while we investigate and reclassify them as necessary."
The companies which complained to Which that their inclusion was unjustified after publication are:
Ionian Island Holidays
Inspired By Travel
Newmarket Holidays Limited
Which also added that the Artisan Travel Company has clarified its Covid-related refund policy and we are now able to change their categorisation from Red to Green."
Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?