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Nothing is plain sailing in Abta v ROL Cruises blame game

Posted on Jun 16, 2021

In April 2019 we booked a £3,637 cruise to St Petersburg with Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) through the agent ROL Cruises. It was cancelled due to Covid, and we agreed for ROL to transfer the booking to a comparable cruise in April this year. However, CMV went into administration in July 2020. Abta refunded us £2,804 and advised us to contact ROL for the £832 deposit. ROL initially accepted our claim, then said it was in discussions with Abta about who was liable, each claiming the other owes the refund.
EJS, London

Abta, the travel trade association, and ROL are still battling out liability for refunds after CMV’s demise. They are paying the price for complex legal niceties which depend on how a holiday was booked and paid for, and whether it was cancelled before or after CMV ceased trading.

TR of London, whose cruise was cancelled last year – while CMV was still trading – was among those who received an extraordinary email from ROL. TR had received £1,321 from Abta, which had told her the £436 balance was owed by ROL. However, the email, signed “the ROL board”, said: “With Abta’s refusal to be collaborative we have made a company decision to take full responsibility to find a solution as there is no question you are entitled to a full refund.”

It went on to say it had proposed to Abta on “numerous occasions” an approach where financial liability was shared evenly between Abta and ROL. “We regret it has not accepted those proposals, moreover ROL considers that Abta’s communication to our customers has been poorly managed and contained misinformation creating understandable confusion.” ROL sent her a cheque a week after its excoriating email. It did not respond to a request for a comment.

Abta told the Observer: “We strongly disagree with ROL’s email. Where Abta is managing claims for refunds that were cancelled before a failure, and not as a result of the insolvency of the operator, and where the bookings were made through a travel agent – in this case ROL – customers can generally expect to receive two payments, one from Abta and one from the travel agent. This is because of the way that booking payments are typically managed between travel agents and the tour operators.”

EJS’s situation differs because the original cruise was cancelled before CMV ceased trading, and a new booking was made. If he had requested a refund for the original trip, ROL would have been liable for the balance. Because he accepted a rebooking, then cancelled because CMV went bust, it’s fully covered by Abta under package travel regulations. It told the Observer it hadn’t realised that EJS was claiming for a rebooking, rather than a refund, and returned the money.

In general, if a package involving flights is cancelled because the provider goes bust, claims should be made via Atol. If flights do not form part of the package, and the tour operator is an Abta member, Abta covers the cost, and customers can make a claim via its website. However, it warns that due to a large number of insolvencies, claims are taking up to six months.

Banks may also be liable if the trip was paid for with a credit card and some insurance policies cover bankruptcies.

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