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16 Aug 2021

Summer pingdemic: refund rights for isolating families explained

NHS Test & Trace

It's estimated that millions of people in the UK could be asked to self-isolate this summer, but what does it mean for you and your family if you have booked tickets for an event or attraction?

Throughout the summer holidays, many families with activities planned to keep their children entertained could face a refund lottery when trying to get their money back due to the different legal requirements to self-isolate.

Here, Which? asks event organisers and popular attractions how they're handling refunds and rebooking if you have to self-isolate, and explain your rights to a refund.

What if you're contacted by NHS Test and Trace?

If you're contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace by phone or email, then you're legally required to self-isolate.

Being informed by Test and Trace puts a legal restriction on you attending the event, and may mean you could get a refund depending on the T&Cs for your ticket, and when you bought it.

If you're contacted by NHS Test and Trace, check the T&Cs for your ticket or holiday provider to see if you might be entitled to a refund.

If you bought your ticket before March 2020, you may be more likely to get a full refund, so ask Test and Trace for written evidence as proof you've been asked to self-isolate - an email should be OK - and contact the ticket seller requesting a refund.

Fully vaccinated workers in 16 critical sectors including energy, food production, emergency services and transport will be exempt from having to self-isolate if they're notified. You can find the latest government guidance and a full list of the sectors where workers are exempt from quarantine by following the link.

Those covered will be able to travel to work in critical industries and take daily covid tests. But, if they test positive they will have to go into self-isolation.

What if you're notified by the NHS Covid-19 app?

From Monday 16 August you will not be asked to self-isolate if you're notified by the NHS Covid app, and you're either under 18 or had both Covid vaccinations. Instead you will be asked to take a PCR test.

Crucially you should have had your second dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before coming into contact with a positive case.

Usually, if an event is cancelled, ticket sellers are responsible for giving customers refunds, but if you or a family member is self-isolating and can't go to an event or attraction, it's not always clear if you can get your money back.

If you've only received a single dose of the vaccine you will still be advised to self-isolate for 10 days.

As notifications to self-isolate from the NHS app are advisory, the original T&Cs for cancellation and refunds set by the ticket seller are likely to still apply.

If you are notified by the NHS app to self-isolate and miss an event, check the T&Cs and contact the ticket seller you bought from to request a refund.

What ticket sellers and attractions are offering refunds to those who have to self-isolate and miss events?

We asked ticket sellers and attractions from zoos and outdoor adventures, to concerts and aquariums if they will refund you if you're told to self-isolate by the Covid-19 app.

The majority said tickets and bookings can be switched to new dates.

Company/event organiserOffering self-isolation refund?
TicketmasterRefund decision lies with individual event organisers
Vue cinemasWill refund tickets for self-isolation
Paultons Park (Peppa Pig World)After two unsuccessful attempts to change the date of a booking, a full refund will be issued
Merlin Entertainments (Chessington, Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park)Can transfer bookings to new dates, family tickets can be rebooked
Go ApeGift voucher at the full value of initial booking, valid for one year
London Zoo and Whipsnade ZooCan reschedule tickets, refunds will be offered if unable to change dates
Chester ZooOffers rebooking and full refunds for individual, family and group tickets

Some people might be happy to rebook their event, but for those who can't and can't get a refund, there's a risk that some might disregard important health guidance rather than miss an event and potentially lose their money.

For example, if you have booked a one-off event - such as a concert - or arranged a family trip to a theme park involving lots of travel, it will be harder to reschedule dates.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: 'Most of us will want to do the right thing and self-isolate following a notification. But, because these warnings from the app are guidance, you might not be automatically entitled to a refund for tickets to an event you can no longer attend as normal terms and conditions will apply.

'People should not be left out of pocket for trying to do the right thing. Businesses who aren't already refunding customers who have been pinged by the app must be flexible and give people their money back if they have to self-isolate.'

boy at gallery

Is self-isolation covered by ticket insurance?

In a recent Which? investigation only two of the five ticket insurance providers we looked at offered comprehensive cover for Covid-19 claims.

If you do test positive for coronavirus and have to self-isolate you should be able to claim on most ticket insurance policies.

Other ways to get a refund

If you don't get your money back from the ticket seller after contacting them, contact your bank or credit company (depending on how you paid). Tell them about your situation and raise a claim.

Neither of these options are guaranteed to work, but are worth a try.

  • If you paid by credit card Any purchase of more than £100 and less than £30,000 using your credit card has extra protections should something go wrong. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act makes your credit card company jointly liable for a breach of contract.
  • If you paid by debit card Ask your card provider to reverse a transaction using a process called chargeback.

This article was first published on 26 July 2021. Last updated on 16 August 2021.