For updated information surrounding the Coronavirus please check the government website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Coronavirus: The Competition and Markets Authority threatens legal action on holiday refunds
The Competition and Markets Authority has said that businesses that do not follow consumer law when processing refunds for holidays and weddings cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak could face legal action. Consumer law requires that a full refund is offered if a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services. This includes if no service is provided because of restrictions during the current lockdown or if a consumer cancels due to the restrictions. Companies are making it hard for consumers to claim refunds, for example holidaymakers are being offered vouchers instead of refunds for accommodation which can only be used during a more expensive period. Some wedding venues are refusing to refund any money and telling people to claim on their insurance. Children’s nurseries will also be investigated by the CMA as some are asking parents to pay a substantial amount to retain their child’s place once they reopen.
However, refunds for cancelled flights will not be included as this is an issue regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Coronavirus: MPs to investigate refunds for cancelled flights
Under EU law, passengers are entitled to a full refund on the cost of a cancelled flight within 7 days or 14 days if they have booked it as part of a package. However, airlines are delaying issuing refunds because they are worried it will trigger them to go bust. Package holiday companies are also affected as they are waiting for airlines to repay them before they can issue their own refunds. As a result, the Commons Transport Committee is to investigate the issue of flight refunds with aviation bosses.
Ryanair warns refunds to take up to six months as it axes jobs
The Chief Executive of Ryanair has said it will take up to six months to refund passengers for flights cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic because of the high number of refunds being processed by reduced staff.
Coronavirus: Travel insurance refund
Many travel insurers, including Axa, Churchill and Direct Line, are offering pro-rata refunds to customers who will not be travelling soon due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. However, customers are only able to do this if they have not made a claim already on their policy. Also, if a customer has a holiday booked which they plan to cancel, they should not cancel their travel insurance until they have sorted a refund as they may need to rely on the insurance to cover cancellation costs.
Coronavirus: More flexibility for IVA payment plans
From 20th April, the Insolvency Service has introduced new guidance to give people with IVAs have more flexibility if they are in financial difficulty as a result of coronavirus, e.g. a reduction in income. The new rules allow the IVA firm to give more help immediately without the need for approval from creditors
Coronavirus: Claim child benefit before registering birth
To claim child benefit new parents normally need to register the child’s birth first. However, as registry offices are closed due to coronavirus, applications can be made before registering the birth. New claimants should complete the relevant claim form as normal and add a note to say they have not been able to register the birth due to Covid-19. They will need to eventually send the birth certificate to allow the claim to be fully checked. Parents with an older child who are already receiving child benefit can add their newborn to the claim by phoning the Child Benefit Helpline. They will need to say they haven’t been able to register the birth due to Covid-19.
Coronavirus: Continuing problems with free school meal vouchers
The scheme to give pupils entitled to free school meals in England vouchers worth £15 a week until schools reopen has had continuing issues. Some parents have not been able to download the vouchers or if they have and used them at the supermarket, they have not been recognised and so could not be redeemed.
Coronavirus: Royal Mail suspends Saturday letter deliveries
Royal Mail has suspended Saturday letter deliveries across the UK until further notice due to the coronavirus although parcel services will continue to operate on a Saturday. Postal collections on a Saturday will also continue.
Scrapping of the digital reading tax
The government has abolished digital reading tax now to help during the current lockdown. It was originally going to scrap the tax at the end of this year. The price of e-books, e-newspapers and e-magazines included 20% in VAT.
Coronavirus: National Trading Standards offers workers training to spot scams
National Trading Standards is offering companies free online training to help staff working from home identify fraudulent emails and calls.
Coronavirus: Fund to support victims of domestic abuse, modern slavery and sexual violence
Ministers have launched a £76 million survivors’ fund to support victims of domestic abuse, modern slavery and sexual violence to help victims rebuild their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. Funding will support the safeguarding of vulnerable children, accommodation and safe spaces for families who have suffered domestic abuse, emergency support for vulnerable kids at risk from criminal exploitation or sexual abuse and for slavery victims to stay in government funded accommodation for 3 months.
Coronavrius: Financial Conduct Authority to take insurance companies to court for refusing to pay out to businesses for loss of income during lockdown
The Financial Conduct Authority has voted to take insurance companies to court for refusing to pay out claims to companies affected by the lockdown. Some business interruption policies cover disruptions caused by infectious disease or pandemics. But some insurance companies are not paying out saying Covid 19 is not covered as it is a new disease or that the impact of the Government lockdown is not included in the policy.
Coronavirus: Funeral Director Scam
Be aware of fraudulent phone calls being made to recently bereaved people claiming to be from Bereavement Services. The scammer says payment has been declined by the Funeral Director and immediate payment is required over the phone by card. The scammer claims if payment is not made they would cancel the funeral.
Funeral expenses payment
A person in receipt of certain benefits, e.g. universal credit, child tax credits or pension credit, may be able to claim a funeral expenses payment to help with the costs of a funeral of a loved one. From 8th April, the maximum amount claimable rose to £1,000 from £700.
Coronavirus: Beware of fake puppy and kitten sales
Be aware of scammers advertising pets to buy online and asking for a deposit. They then ask for further payments to cover insurance, vaccinations and delivery of the pet. However, the scammers have no pets to sell.