CARAVAN site closures have meant some customers paying yearly fees have found themselves out of pocket in recent months. Luckily, Martin Lewis and his Money Saving Expert team have offered some insight into how customers could get their hands on a refund for the lost time.
Caravan and campsite owners have been unable to use their pitches in recent months as coronavirus lockdown measures as many providers were forced to close their doors to guests. Along with missing out on holidays in the early summer season, many customers have also been left disgruntled by the loss of money from yearly fees.
As parks gear up to reopen on July 4, some sites are looking at ways they can pay back partial refunds for customers who have been unable to use their holiday homes.
While park fees vary, the financial expert predicts some Britons could be faced with losses in their thousands, depending on the type of services on offer at the park.
Smaller, family-owned parks may have a lower fee compared with larger parks offering onsite amenities.
The good news is, some parks are already making moves to partially refund customers who have paid their yearly fee upfront.
“We have seen evidence of sites that are taking the advice to work with owners to offer partial refunds or credit notes for use towards future fees,” explains the Money Saving Expert (MSE) website.
Amongst these are big names including Parkdean, Haven, and Golden Sands.
“Haven, one of the biggest site owners which operates 25,000 pitches across 40 parks throughout England, Scotland and Wales, is offering a site fee credit with a £20 per week deduction,” explains MSE.
“This £20 deduction contributes to their ongoing costs, such as site maintenance and security staff.
“Haven is also offering owners who make an income by letting their holiday caravans via their in-house scheme ‘top-ups’ if the site fee credit is less than they’d otherwise earn letting the van out.”
The latest park to update its refund terms is Parkdean, which will offer a package of support for its customers, including a 50 percent credit towards pitch fees for 2021.
Parkdean is also offering a years extra tenure added to the pitch contract.
Golden Sands has assured it will offer a credit to customers on a weekly basis at a rate of 60 percent of their site fees for each week.
This will be backdated to the beginning of April.
The site has also promised it will not increase site fee charges next year
Other UK holiday providers, such as Park Holidays, have yet to reach a decision according to MSE.
The Money Saving Expert team has assured that it will be working with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to ensure all customer rights are met.
According to the CMA, if services can not be accessed, refunds should be given.
The consumer authority has already spoken out against domestic holiday providers who are refusing cash refunds for cancelled holidays.
Holiday providers must offer “cash refunds” to customers who have suffered holiday losses following the coronavirus crisis says the market regulator.
Martin Lewis and the MSE team have additionally provided advice for customers who have paid yearly site fees upfront.
For those seeking a partial refund, they recommend three key steps:
Work out what is covered in your fee
The first step is to look at what you are paying for and determine how much of this you are unable to use at present.
If you do not have an itemisation of fees from your site owner, you should write to them.
The CMA advises: “To work out if a refund is due, each individual needs to look carefully at the service they are paying for and consider whether that service is still being provided during lockdown.”
Fees for amenities, utilities and sewerage and entertainment, for example, are not being used and would be due a refund.
The actual fee for keeping your caravan on site, and the added security this provides, however, will still need to be paid.
Contact your site owner by email or phone.
The next step is to contact the site and ask for a partial refund based on your fees and usage.
Send a formal letter
If initial contact proves to be unsuccessful, the next step is to write a formal letter stating there is a case to be made for a partial refund, and outlining breaches of service.
Seek a refund from your card provider
This may be a little bit more difficult than normal, due to the need for a partial refund.
Mr Lewis often advises seeking a Section 75 refund for credit cards, or a chargeback claim, however, it might not be as straight forward when only seeking a part refund.
MSE explains: “MSE has contacted all the major banks and credit card companies, and so far, both MasterCard and Visa say that a chargeback can be made for a partial amount. However, you will need to be able to split the cost out of the services you’re not getting in order to make a chargeback claim.
“If the cost can’t be split it would be difficult to actually complete a successful partial chargeback.”
The experts also warn that this could also be considered a “breach of contract for non-payment of fees” by your site owner.