COMPLAINTS about holidays have overtaken job concerns as the number one issue for hundreds of Scots contacting two independent national advice services every day during the coronavirus crisis.

Scotland’s dedicated consumer advice service, consumeradvice.scot, has revealed that of the concerns they are delaing with 43% are dealing with travel and nearly one in ten is about event cancellations.

And figures from Advice Direct Scotland (advice.scot) for the past week show that consumer concerns, mainly about travel and events, were the most queried issue last week at around 14 per cent - compared to 12 per cent raising the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The growing number of Scots seeking advice about holidays and cancelled events comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said firms which fail to refund people for cancelled holidays and weddings could face legal action.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), who is investigating, said around four in five of the complaints received by its Covid-19 Taskforce were about cancellations and refunds.

The CMA said it is concerned about people being pressured to accept vouchers for holiday accommodation which can only be used during a more expensive period, and wedding venues refusing to refund any money and telling people to claim on their insurance.

Last week research accused Britain's biggest travel operators and airlines of openly breaking the law on refunds for cancelled holidays.

Analysis by the consumer organisation Which? found that the UK's 20 biggest travel operators and airlines are delaying refunds for cancelled trips or removing customers’ refund rights altogether as a result of the strain that the coronavirus pandemic has placed them under.

It found that none of the UK’s 10 biggest holiday companies or airlines were offering full refunds within the legal time frame, with some refusing to provide refunds altogether and instead offering customers the choice of rebooking or accepting a voucher or credit note. Holiday companies should offer refunds within 14 days while for airlines it is seven days.

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The International Air Transport Association has admitted that faltering consumer confidence will slow the recovery of air travel once coronavirus restrictions end.

Consumeradvice.scot has also recorded an increase in contacts about these issues, warning that some businesses are expecting their customers to bear their pain with "no consideration" of the impact on the individual.

Marjorie Gibson, head of operations with Scotland’s national consumer advice service, consumeradvice.scot, said: “There has been an upsurge in queries in Scotland relating to consumer rights, particularly in relation to holiday and event cancellations.

“The announcement by the CMA is therefore both timely and welcome.

“Some businesses are expecting their customers to bear their pain with no consideration of the impact on the individual."

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The advice groups said that examples of incidents reported in Scotland include a travel agent cancelling a holiday to Australia but refusing to refund the cost until November 2020.

They said one tour operator refused to part-refund a curtailed package holiday in India.

And a Glasgow company cancelled a 50th birthday cake order, but offered another cake at a later date rather than a refund.

They said one professional football club offered to rebook a hospitality suite rather than provide a refund, even though no dates are available on when matches will next be played.

They said one arena insisted on providing vouchers instead of a refund for a cancelled children’s birthday party.

Ms Gibson added: “It’s important that consumers know that where a contract is not performed as agreed, consumer protection law will generally allow consumers to obtain a refund.

“Consumers can be offered vouchers and re-booking as an alternative to a refund, but they should not be misled or pressured into doing so – and in most cases a refund should still be an option that is easily available."

Thousands of flights have also been cancelled during the pandemic, but this does not fall under the CMA’s investigation. The Civil Aviation Authority has issued advice to travellers and said they should contact it with specific questions.

The CMA said that most businesses are “acting reasonably in what are unprecedented circumstances”, but added that consumer rights cannot be ignored.

Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the CMA, said: “Our Covid-19 taskforce is shining a light on some of the big issues facing consumers in wake of this pandemic. Alongside price-gouging reports, we’re now seeing cancellation issues in their thousands. So far, the CMA has identified weddings, holiday accommodation and childcare as particular areas of concern.

“The current situation is throwing up challenges for everyone, including businesses, but that does not mean that consumer rights can fall by the wayside. If we find evidence that businesses are failing to comply with consumer protection law then we will get tough – that means launching enforcement cases and moving to court action where there is a strong reason to do so.”

The CMA outlined three conditions when it expects a full refund to be issued. When a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or service, when no service is provided by a business, for example, because this is prevented by lockdown restrictions and when a customer cancels or is prevented from receiving the service, for example, due to lockdown restrictions.