What are your refund rights during a global crisis?

During lockdown, so many things have been cancelled, but what can you do about it? Here our guest blogger, Emma Lunn, takes a look at your rights to a refund during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus has prompted a consumer rights conundrum. With everything from concerts to holidays cancelled, thousands of people are left having paid for something that isn’t going to happen. Here's what you're entitled to:


Travel has been a big victim of the virus. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all foreign travel on 17 March, with the restrictions now in place for an indefinite time period.

In theory, holidaymakers should be well protected against cancellations. ABTA rules state entitlement to a full refund for cancelled package holidays, while EU laws mean airlines must refund cancelled flights.

But, unfortunately, would-be travellers are struggling to get their money back from travel companies. According to Which [1] 20 of the UK’s largest operators are illegally with holding refunds that should be paid within 14 days.

Many holidaymakers are finding they are being fobbed off with vouchers or a credit note, or are being pressured to re-book their trip.

Frustrating as this is, industry bodies have warned that travel firms could go bankrupt if they paid out refunds straight away. As a result, various travel industry bodies are urging the Government to step in a support the travel industry.

Sporting events and concerts

The UK’s big summer of sporting events, gigs and festivals is another victim of Covid-19. Generally, if you bought your ticket for a cancelled event from an official seller, you should be entitled to a refund.

Ticketmaster, for example, says its refunding tickets automatically, with the refund including the ticket’s face value plus the service charge.

But most concerts are being rescheduled rather than cancelled altogether. Original tickets remain valid for postponed events – but you can get your money back if the new date doesn’t suit you.

The same goes for sporting events. For example, the London Marathon was rescheduled for 4 October – but you can get a refund if you can’t make the new date.

Tennis fans who got the option to buy Wimbledon tickets in the public ballot and paid for them will get a refund plus the opportunity to purchase tickets for the same day and court for next year’s championships. Football fans with tickets to Premier League matches are likely to be refunded too.

Train tickets

The cheapest Advance train tickets are normally non-refundable but, with people being advised not to travel, you can get a refund on Advance tickets purchased before 23 March.

Refunds can be processed remotely (you normally have to go to a station ticket office) via the website of the rail company or third party that sold you the ticket.

If you are a commuter with a season ticket you are no longer using due to being furloughed, working from home, or because the trains aren’t running, you can get a partial refund if there are at least seven days left on a monthly ticket,or more than seven weeks left on an annual ticket.

There’s normally an admin fee of £10 for season ticket refunds but train companies are waiving it at the moment.

Pausing premium sports channels

With live sport on hold for now, Sky Sports and BT Sport customers are faced with only being able to watch re-runs and repeats.

But you can save a bit of cash by pausing your sports subscription. If you’re with Sky,you can arrange for your Sky Sports subscription (and BT Sport if you have it) to be paused online and you’ll automatically start paying for the full package again when the action resumes.

If you pay for BT Sport directly with BT, you have two options: you can get a two-month bill credit for the service, or donate the cash equivalent to the NHS. If you pay for Sky Sports via BT you’ll have to call to request a bill credit.

If you’re a Virgin Media customer and subscribe to Sky Sports or BT Sport , you'll be able to pause your subscription online. The same goes if you pay for Sky Sports as part of a TalkTalk broadband bundle.


Gyms, fitness studios and sports clubs have all been forced to close due to the pandemic. All the main chains, including Pure Gym, Better, David Lloyd, Third Space, Fitness First and Anytime Fitness, have automatically frozen memberships.

Some smaller studios, as well as outdoor bootcamp operators such as Be Military Fit, are running online classes via Facebook Live or Zoom for a reduced monthly fee. However, if you can afford to keep paying your normal membership subs, it might increase the chances of these small businesses being able to re-open when the pandemic is over.  

Cinemas and theatres

The entertainment industry has been one of the hardest hit with the pandemic bringing down the curtain on both cinema and theatre trips.

Film fans with monthly or annual cinema memberships can normally pause or extend their memberships. For example, Cineworld will be extending the membership of all My Cineworld Plus accounts retrospectively once it re-opens, equivalent to the total duration the cinemas closed. Meanwhile Odeon has paused Limitless membership payments until its cinemas reopen. 

The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers says anyone with tickets for cancelled theatre performances will be contacted by the company they bought the tickets from regarding exchanges and refunds.

Car insurance

There’s good news for anyone who has car insurance with Admiral – the insurer is giving each customer a refund of £25. The pay-out is being made because the number of car insurance claims has dropped as drivers stay off the roads.

The owners of 4.4 million vehicles will automatically receive the payment by the end of May.

Admiral is the only UK insurer to announce an automatic refund policy so far – drivers with other insurers should continue to pay their car insurance, even if they are driving significantly fewer miles than usual.

If you’re not using your car at all, you could apply for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). If approved, this means you no longer need insurance for your car (so you could cancel your policy and get a partial refund), but it also means you won't be able to legally drive it.

 [1] Which?


Emma Lunn is an award-winning freelance journalist who specialises in personal finance. She has more than 15 years’ experience writing for national newspapers, trade and consumer magazines, and specialist websites

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