On a positive note, LOTS of people have informed me that they have now received a refund from the property owner, after sending my template letter(s). This is great news and was the right thing for the property owners to do. I hope you can support these property owners by making future bookings with them.
However, there are still clearly many people that have either not received a refund, or have only received a partial refund.
Reminder of the legal position
The key points are as follows:
1. If your booking was for any time up until June, my view is that you are entitled to a full cash refund;
2. You entered into two contracts (contained within the same terms and conditions you agreed at the point of booking):
a. With Sykes, for facilitating the booking, for which they charged you a nominal booking fee (from what I have seen, this is usually in the region of £30-£60). This contract was fulfilled the moment you made your booking, so you have no claim against Sykes here; and
b. With the property owner, for the actual booking of the accommodation.
3. Your claim is therefore against the property owner, not Sykes.
What you’re telling me
“I’ve had no response”
If it has been less that 14 days since you sent your letter, wait until 14 days have lapsed. Most people have sent letters to Sykes to pass on to the property owner, so this will take time.
If it has been more than 14 days, it is time to take the next step (see below).
“Sykes responded, and said there will be no refund”
Obviously this is very unhelpful and, in my view, wrong. I have also been interested to see that in some cases Sykes seems to have made this decision alone, rather than referring to the property owner.
If this is the response you have had, now is the time to take the next step (see below).
“The property owner rejected my refund outright”
Again, unhelpful, and wrong. Time to take the next step (see below).
“The property owner said they’ve taken legal advice and they don’t have to refund me”
One property owner instructed a firm of solicitors to respond to the consumer. I have seen the letter and it is shocking. I fail to see how any lawyer, who is familiar with consumer law, could advise a property owner that they do not have an obligation to refund the consumer, unless the booking is post-June, and therefore potentially outside of the lockdown period.
“The property owner has only given me a partial refund”
Many people fall into this category. The reason for this is that under the contract between Sykes and the property owners, Sykes receives the booking fee from the consumer, deducts a booking fee and a commission, and then sends the property owner the remainder. The property owners are therefore simply refunding the amount they received. You can see why it is harsh on them, but they have a legal obligation to refund you ALL of your monies (apart from the booking fee). They then must pursue Sykes for a refund of the commission.
You have four options:
1. Agree a new booking date instead of a refund;
2. Give the property owner longer to respond or, if they have responded, write again asking for a refund;
3. Make a chargeback or section 75 claim; or
4. Issue a claim in the small claims court,
Both a chargeback or section 75 claim should work. However, lots of people have reported that their claims have been rejected. If you decide to take this route you find some help here: Section 75 claims: UK Holiday Refunds
Issuing a claim in the small claims court is easy and relatively cheap. In this respect, the small claims court process was designed for consumers to use without lawyers. However, please note the following:
i) DO NOT ISSUE PROCEEDINGS AGAINST SYKES – your claim is against the property owner; and
ii) Make sure that you fully particularise your claim.
You will find lots of useful information and instructions on how to issue a claim in the small claims here: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money