Eurostar has been ordered by the train regulator to make it clear to customers whose trains have been cancelled that they are entitled to a full refund, amid claims it did not disclose this information in an attempt to get customers to accept vouchers instead.
After receiving several complaints, London TravelWatch, the passenger watchdog, wrote to Eurostar last week accusing it of “burying” the refund information and being less than transparent about passengers’ right to a full refund.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has since intervened and told Eurostar to properly inform passengers of their right to a full cash refund. The ORR gave the train firm until 15 January to make the change.
Since March, and for most of 2020, Eurostar has been operating a severely curtailed service that has resulted in thousands of cancelled trains between London St Pancras and mainland Europe.
At the weekend the company was forced to cancel all its trains out of London after European governments closed their borders to anyone leaving the UK.
But while customers booked on to cancelled trains have been entitled to full refunds, the train company has been pushing passengers to accept e-vouchers instead.
The Guardian first highlighted the problem in May after receiving complaints from readers who said they were unable to get refunds.
After a meeting with the company last week, the ORR’s deputy director of consumer affairs said it was important that train companies were upfront with passengers about their rights.
“We are pleased that Eurostar has committed to making changes to ensure it is being clear with its customers about these rights,” Stephanie Tobyn said.
A Eurostar spokesman said affected travellers would be sent an email with a link to the company’s refunds page, making it simpler to request reimbursement in line with their conditions of carriage.
The London TravelWatch chair, Arthur Leathley, said: ‘With thousands of people affected by service cancellations since the weekend, Eurostar are still not making it clear on their website that passengers are entitled to cash refunds. They need to make the changes ordered by the ORR immediately.
“Passengers who do not want a voucher need to be told that they can easily claim the cash refund to which they are legally entitled.”