Have you had a holiday or event cancelled due to COVID-19? If so, how successful were you at getting your money back? Are you asking yourself: is this an unfair contract?

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to an enormous increase in consumer attempting to cancel or rebook their holidays and the UK ECC has seen a surge in queries from concerned holidaymakers looking for refunds for their cancelled holidays.

Consumers may have signed contracts or made bookings with penalties for cancellation by the holidaymaker and termination of contract by the villa owner or holiday company which consumers are then questioning when they are unable to get their money back. We have looked at whether the terms of specific bookings could be considered unfair under the Unfair Contract Terms Directive 93/13/EEC.

Laura Johnston, consumer adviser at the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC), said: “Generally, in order for terms to be unfair, they have to cause a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the consumer and the business. If a term is deemed to be unfair then it would be removed from the contract but the rest of the agreement would remain intact unless the contract cannot be performed without the removed term.

“In relation to a villa booking, if a term is deemed to be unfair and was removed then this would this likely reduce the provider’s rights, not create additional rights for the consumer’s right so, it probably wouldn’t help the consumer to get a refund.

“There are also individual circumstances in specific countries which can have an effect on a consumer’s rights. For example, in Spain there was an emergency law saying that whilst the country was deemed to be in a state of alarm, both the consumer and the trader would have had cancellation rights because the service couldn’t have been performed as the country was in lockdown, but as the state of alarm ended on 21 June this means that the service can be performed by the supplier and therefore means that the consumer has very limited rights.

“Laws don’t foresee this kind of thing happening. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that’s positive for consumers in this kind of situation.”

However, no two cases are the same, so it’s very important for consumers to come to the UK ECC when they have a problem. We will listen to what they have to say about the individual circumstances of their predicament, look at any appropriate paperwork and advise accordingly.

Laura added: “If the holiday venue cancels then it's an entirely different story altogether, but in many cases, venues are refusing to cancel, or rebook. I advise consumers in this situation to contact UK ECC, as there may be options to try and get back some if not all of their fees, or to gain reward vouchers as a form of repayment."