Consumer rights during coronavirus: What protection is in place?

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed chaos on the world and left the leisure and hospitality sectors reeling, with the UK lockdown requiring the cancellation of a whole gamut of events including sport, gigs and holidays.

But what rights do you have as a consumer if the coronavirus has thwarted your plans, leaving you potentially out of pocket for activities paid for up front?

Cancelled or postponed events

If you bought a ticket to an event such as a gig, festival or sports match from an organiser or official ticket seller you should be offered a refund if the event is cancelled. This applies if you bought tickets online, over the phone or in person. Tickets bought from a private seller or a re-selling website may not, however, be refundable.

If the event is postponed, you may be offered the option to attend on the revised date or get a refund if you cannot make it. Hotel rooms booked for an event might offer refunds or the chance to rebook for a later date. You should contact the organisation you made the booking with.

You should be able to claim a refund or make a revised booking date it you hired a venue for a private event such as a party or a wedding. Again, you should contact the company you booked through and any suppliers for these events should be contacted separately.

Holidays and flights

The Foreign Office has advised against all but the most essential travel so you should be able to claim a refund for cancelled holidays booked within the UK and abroad. You may be offered alternative dates or destinations instead but if these differ widely from the original plans you can insist on a refund.

Under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 you are entitled to a refund if you booked a ‘ready-made’ holiday (those booked through one company and where one price is paid) or many tailor-made trips and shopping basket type sales on websites (those which involve you selecting the different elements such as your flight and hotel).

If you booked elements of your trip separately (such as a flight directly with an airline and a hotel through an accommodation booking website), you are unlikely to enjoy the protection provided by the 2018 Package Travel Regulations. However, you might have protection in other ways, such as through travel insurance or through booking with your credit card. Check with your providers.


If your flight is cancelled, EC Regulation No. 261/2004 provides that you are entitled to the following options:

  • a full refund;
  • a free replacement flight to your final destination, even if it is with an alternative airline; or
  • a free replacement flight at a future date, subject to availability of seats.

Many airline companies are trying to dodge giving full refunds and offer vouchers instead. If this does not suit you, stick to your guns and insist on a refund as is your right under the law.

Membership fees and subscriptions

TV sporting subscription services and gym memberships are obviously a waste of money during lockdown as nearly all organised sport is cancelled, and gyms are closed. Most subscription providers and gym chains are offering customers a holiday from subscription and membership payments during the lockdown, but you should contact your providers to ensure that this has been put in place.

Online shopping

Online shopping has inevitably rocketed since the lockdown began, with demand often outstripping the ability to supply. Many companies have introduced new policies governing online shopping during the crisis, with delays to normal delivery times to be expected. You do, however, have rights as an online shopper so you can claim a refund if your delivery is damaged and if something you ordered is unreasonably delayed you may still have a right to compensation.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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