CMA Threatens Lastminute.com With Court Over Refund Delay

By Irene Madongo
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Law360, London (February 12, 2021, 4:41 PM GMT) -- Britain's antitrust watchdog threatened on Friday to take travel booking service Lastminute.com to court after it failed to refund thousands of customers for holidays that were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Competition and Markets Authority said the online travel business signed commitments in December to pay out over £7 million ($9.7 million) to more than 9,000 customers. But the company still owes more than £1 million to 2,600 people after it failed to ensure they got their money back by Jan. 31, said the watchdog.

CMA chief Andrea Coscelli said it is "wholly unacceptable" that people are still waiting to receive a refund despite the commitments.

"We take breaches of commitments extremely seriously. If Lastminute.com does not comply with the law and pay people their outstanding refunds quickly we will take the company to court," Coscelli said.

The regulator said it has told the company that it will take legal action it if fails to make the payments within seven days. Lastminute.com should also make sure that buyers of package holidays who book from now get a full refund within 14 days where they are entitled to one after a vacation is canceled, the CMA added.

Efforts were made to get a comment from Lastminute.com.

The CMA has been looking at how companies are handling consumers whose holidays and trips have been affected because of the pandemic.

The watchdog said in December 2020 that it has launched a probe into whether airlines failed to refund customers for flights they could not take because of pandemic-related government travel restrictions. And, in October, the watchdog said Virgin Holidays had committed to refund £203 million to travelers after the company was threatened with court action.

--Additional reporting by Lucia Osborne-Crowley. Editing by Joe Millis.

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