Travel agents have warned the trade about customers being reimbursed twice, by claiming a chargeback from credit companies as well as the original refund from a cancelled trip.

John Lightwood, founder of Silver Fern Holidays, alerted agents in an email about a transaction at sister agency Hyde Barker Travel in Southwell.

He said the client had been assured of a refund but “jumped the gun” and initiated a chargeback without informing the agency.

“Before you can say ‘Which report’ or ‘Travel operators rip-off the public’, the consumer then has two refunds for the same holiday in their bank account,” he wrote.

Barbara Cray, partner at Hyde Barker Travel in Southwell, said there had been two such cases, relating to bookings worth £7,000 and £3,000.

She said the problem had been compounded by the credit card company informing the agency by post – by the time they had received notification, there were just four days left to appeal.

She said: “It is really time-consuming and hits cash flow.”

She urged agents to keep in regular touch with credit card companies to check if chargebacks have been issued.

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Another agent experiencing the same problem is Oliver Broad, director at RB Collection in Lichfield.

He said a small number of clients submitted chargebacks despite being assured that the agency is working hard to obtain a refund.

Again, he outlined how it is time-consuming and difficult to resolve the chargeback – and it is hitting the agency’s bottom line.

“It’s a nightmare and really frustrating – people need to be aware of it,” he said.

Krystene Bousfield, associate solicitor at Travlaw, said problems with chargebacks were not new, as fraudsters had been known to claim even after having taken their holiday.

However, amid the coronavirus crisis, there are still some cases of fraud but other issues are being prompted by the lengthy delays in refunds, she said.

Bousfield advised agents to make it clear when talking to customers about refunds that they can only receive the money once, so they must inform the agency if a credit card chargeback is requested.

She also highlighted the importance of keeping in regular touch with clients and credit card firms – and keeping good records.

“We encourage people to say in a dispute letter [to the credit card firm] that this person has been promised a refund and enclose proof,” she said.