Tui UK customers awaiting refunds for holidays cancelled due to coronavirus will receive them by the end of the month.

The UK’s largest operator made the commitment after the competition watchdog started an investigation after receiving thousands of complaints from people that they were not receiving refunds for their cancelled holidays within 14 days under consumer protection law.

The Competition and Markets Authority said Tui had “engaged constructively” throughout the investigation.

“While the vast majority of  people have already received their refunds or rebooked during the CMA’s investigation, any outstanding refund requests for people who had their package holiday cancelled as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be paid by 30 September 2020,” the CMA said.

“Some customers may have accepted refund credit notes. It is important they know they are  entitled to a cash refund as an alternative.

“Tui UK has now agreed to contact customers who have an unused credit, to let them know they can convert it to a refund, which will be paid within 14 days.”    

Tui UK will report regularly to the CMA over the coming year on the time it has taken to refund customers after the authority insisted that it wants to ensure the company meets its obligation to pay refunds on time.

The commitments apply to all Tui UK brands that offer package holidays, including First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Crystal, TUI Scene, TUI Lakes & Mountains and Skytours.

The CMA has written to more than 100 package holiday firms to remind them of their obligations to comply with consumer protection law and has opened investigations into a number of operators.

The authority said: “The CMA understands that the pandemic has created extraordinary pressure for travel companies, including Tui UK.

“However, customers who had their holidays cancelled due to coronavirus must be treated fairly and receive their refunds promptly.

“It is essential that that all businesses comply with consumer protection law so that people are not being left out of pocket.”

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “It’s absolutely essential that people have trust and confidence when booking package holidays and know that if a cancellation is necessary as a result of coronavirus, businesses will give them a full, prompt refund.

“The CMA’s action ensures that Tui UK customers will get their refunds by the end of the month.

“The CMA is continuing to investigate package holiday firms in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. If we find that businesses are not complying with consumer protection law, we will not hesitate to take further action.”

A Tui spokeswoman said: “We remain sorry that holiday refunds took longer to process during the height of Covid-19. The volume of cancellations and customer contacts was unprecedented, and at a time when retail stores, contact centres and offices were closed because of the nationwide lockdown.

“We worked tirelessly to deliver system improvements in extremely challenging circumstances, making refund times shorter prior to the CMA engagement with the package travel sector. Where due, customer refunds will be made within 14 days, as they were prior to the pandemic. We would like to thank our customers for their understanding.”

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Tui messed around millions of customers over refunds this summer.

“But credit where credit is due; it apologised, and more importantly is now committed to cash refunds within 14 days.

“The proof will be when that commitment is put to the test, but it is saying the right things.”