COVID-19: BA and Ryanair investigated for refusing refunds during lockdowns
British Airways and Ryanair are being investigated over whether they broke consumer law by refusing to give refunds to people "lawfully unable to fly" during lockdowns.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had launched enforcement action against the two firms and was concerned that by failing to offer customers their money back it had left them "unfairly out of pocket".
It prompted a sharp response from British Airways, which accused the government of "seeking to punish further an industry that is on its knees".
The CMA said it had written to the airlines to try to resolve its concerns "which may include seeking refunds, or other redress, for affected customers".
The action comes after the CMA opened an investigation into the wider airlines sector in December over consumers being denied refunds for flights they could not legally take - though it did not name individual carriers at the time.
In its latest announcement, the watchdog said: "During periods of lockdown across the UK, British Airways and Ryanair refused to give refunds to people that were lawfully unable to fly, with British Airways offering vouchers or rebooking and Ryanair providing the option to rebook."
The CMA said it was concerned that by failing to offer people their money back, both firms may have breached consumer law, though it stressed that it should not be assumed at this stage that this was the case, adding that only a court could come to such a conclusion.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the watchdog, said: "While we understand that airlines have had a tough time during the pandemic, people should not be left unfairly out of pocket for following the law.
"Customers booked these flights in good faith and were legally unable to take them due to circumstances entirely outside of their control.
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