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Money & Rights

Your Questions Answered


The Choice panel of experts answers your queries on tax, pensions, benefits, investment and the law

Can I demand a cash refund?

Q. Following problems on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise, the company offered is compensation in the form of a 50 percent refund, payable as 25 percent towards spending on board, and a voucher worth 25 percent to sue towards a future cruise. On a recent episode of the TV programme Rip Off Britain travel expert Simon Calder said that under consumer protection law customers could insist on a cash refund instead of a voucher. 

I wrote to Royal Caribbean requesting my refund, amounting to £1184, in cash. They replied saying it would be unfair on the other passengers who had accepted vouchers if they were to pay me in cash. Am I within my rights to demand a cash refund?

~Name and address supplied

Charmaine Hast of Wedlake Bell replies:

A. Any company providing a service has a duty towards its customers if they suffer as a result of its breaches of contract or relevant law. Customers' rights will vary depending on whether the breach resulted in delays, cancellation, personal injury or unsatisfactory experience.

Whether the company breached an express term of the contract or its duty to exercise reasonable care and skill, customers are entitled to compensation. The law requires any refund is paid by the same method used for the original payment, usually a refund to the card used for booking. However, if the customer expressly agrees to accept another form of payment, the refund may be made by other means. If you have already accepted any of the compensation by way of on-board spending and vouchers, there is no requirement for Royal Caribbean to exchange it for cash.

Vouchers or on-board credit are acceptable if the passenger agrees, but any conditions to the vouchers must be reasonable. Our view is that the requirement to book another cruise is unreasonable and that you should be entitled to exchange this part of the compensation for cash.

Outside the EU, the rules vary considerably. Royal Caribbean is regulated by ABTA. However, ABTA's website states that if you've already accepted compensation while on holiday you can't usually reopen your complaint afterwards. Do not accept compensation unless you're completely satisfied, as acceptance may waive your right to cash compensation or pursuing your claim further.



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