personal finance

We didn't expect this kind of treatment from a luxury spa


I realise there must be so many people right now who are grappling with refunds for bookings made prior to coronavirus. I do, however, find the attitude of Champneys to be outrageous.

I was due to spend one night at Champneys, Tring, as part of a package for a hen party in May. We were a group of 12 women aged between 55 and 75, sharing a yoga class, a meal and some treatments. My friend has had to postpone her wedding until next year and it is not at all definite that we will be able to come together for a similar hen gathering.

Champneys emailed me stating that it was allowing customers to rebook cancelled reservations within 12 months without an administration fee. I requested a refund and have been told it is not issuing any. Surely Champneys can’t decide arbitrarily that it will not be giving any refunds?
JH, London

Legally, no it can’t. Practically, like many other companies, it’s seeing what it can get away with to keep its cashflow going. Its own terms and conditions state that if it has to cancel a booking due to exceptional circumstances it will refund the money. The government regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, has confirmed that customers are entitled to a full refund if their contract is cancelled due to Covid-19, and companies that refuse to pay up may be in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

While firms can offer vouchers instead, they are not allowed to force customers to accept them. Indeed, there’s a risk if you did cave in, or if Champneys ceased trading, the voucher would be worthless. Nonetheless, Champneys informed you with breathtaking arrogance – and ignorance – that: “As a business along with many others we are having to make tough decisions in line with government policy’s [sic] and the business.

“We are committed to ensuring we are flexible with customer bookings by making movements of dates to later in the year without charging additional administration fees and providing an alternative to hold the booking in place for 12 months. However, we will not be authorising any refunds across our customer base.”

In the meantime, its website is urging customers to “book with confidence”. Its policy may safeguard its funds in the short term, but it risks wrecking its reputation. Online review sites are loud in condemnation of the company’s intransigence, with 78% of Trustpilot reviews rating it bad since lockdown.

You would have a strong case in the small claims court, or you could attempt a chargeback through your card issuer if you paid by credit or debit card.

Champneys, which has closed its phone lines and chatbot, did not respond to my requests for a comment.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.problems@observer.co.uk. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions



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