ORGANISERS been warned they are breaking the law by not providing refunds for school trips in Scotland that are cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Scotland's national consumer advice services, consumeradvice.scot issued the warning after receiving a raft of complaints over a resistance to offer full refunds.

It says 42% of queries it is dealing with involve travel - with around one in four of these highlighting issues seeking recourse from airlines, travel providers and travel agents where trips are cancelled.

Organisers of school trips have been warned that travel firms must follow the legislation, after receiving concerns about the issue.

The education secretary John Swinney has promised to pursue the issue of families who fear losing out on payments for school trips cancelled as a result of the coronavirus.

Consumeradvice.scot says families in Scotland are already losing out.

Advisers have been asked about children’s group bookings for travel which have been cancelled by the provider, with the offer of vouchers being made or a rescheduled trip at a later date.

The bookings include football and other sporting tournaments.

It comes after one Glasgow school came under the spotlight for saying that a £250 deposit for a cancelled trip was non-refundable.

The issue related to a £1400-a-child trip to New York set up by Lourdes Secondary School for 20 pupils due for next month.

Glasgow City Council has said its insurance team is working to get the parents their money back.

HeraldScotland:

Colin Mathieson, knowledge coordinator with consumeradvice.scot, said:“The most common issue being raised by Scots consumers is travel disruption during the coronavirus crisis, including a large number of concerns about seeking recourse when trips have been cancelled.

“Some of these queries relate to children’s group bookings for travel which have been cancelled by the provider, with the offer of vouchers being made or a rescheduled trip at a later date – rather than a refund.

“Regardless of the current climate with COVID-19, organisers of school trips should remember that consumer rights are maintained and the legislation has to be adhered to by travel providers.

“There are a number of practical steps that organisers can take, and our advisers are on hand to discuss specific cases.”

The advice body says that in the first instance the organiser of the trip should be identified.

Travel companies usually require a named person to arrange travel bookings, and this will often be a teacher or other school employee.

Consumeradvice.scot says communication with the travel company should be handled by this person who has the option to seek refunds on behalf of families.

Consumers are advised that the first step is to request a refund from the travel provider and allow them adequate time to process the refund. Under normal circumstances, this would be within 14 days, however due to demand this may take slightly longer.

The second step is to make a complaint to the travel provider - If a refund request has been denied or ignored, then the organiser of the booking can make a complaint directly to the travel company.

The complaint can then be escalated. If the travel provider does not come back within eight weeks of the complaint being received with a satisfactory response, then the next stage is to escalate this through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

The consumer organisation Which's has previously warned that some airlines and package travel providers are refusing to provide refunds, in a breach of their legal obligations to their customers, while others are providing vouchers or credit notes – which may prove to be worthless if holiday firms run into financial trouble.

Travel industry estimates suggest that up to £7 billion in payments made by UK customers – many who may also be struggling financially due to the impact of the pandemic – are affected.