Next year, consumer bodies are going to have the power to take action against tour operators which they feel are treating people unfairly over cancellation charges (see page 1).
They must be licking their lips at the prospect.
The problem for tour operators is that they may have to prove that a cancellation fee is justified in a particular case. For example, Airtours charges 100% cancellation fees for holidays cancelled between one and 21 days before departure and might have to show in court that it has lost the total value of a certain holiday when challenged by a disgruntled client who is out of pocket because of the rule.
The court is unlikely to take into account the fact that cancellation charges even themselves out - sometimes an operator will make a profit on a cancelled holiday through selling it twice while on other occasions, perhaps out of peak season or when demand is flat, an operator will take a hit after swallowing some of the charge.
The courts won't care either that margins are very tight in this business.
Operators have got to look at their charges very carefully and make sure they can justify them - they'll be no sympathy for companies which are shown to be making a killing at the expense of an unfortunate holidaymaker who has been forced to cancel.
Jeremy Skidmore - editor
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