FAMILIES could see their summer holiday plans scuppered as increasing numbers of Brits are being forced to self-isolate after getting pinged by the NHS Covid app.
Consumer watchdog Which? has revealed the refund policies of some of the top UK attractions in case the pingdemic ruins your plans.
More than 600,000 Brits were pinged by the NHS Covid app between July 8 and July 14 after being found to have come into close contact with someone who had tested positive for the infection.
This number could increase amid the relaxation of Covid restrictions and is already creating food shortages and forcing shops to shut amid a shortage of staff.
Many families will be planning days out as the summer holidays get into full swing this week but these plans could be ruined if you are pinged or contacted by NHS Track and Trace and forced into 10 days of self-isolation.
Consumer watchdog Which? has warned that families face a refund lottery when trying to get their money back if they are unable to attend events or venues after being told to self-isolate.
The organisation is calling for businesses to do the right thing and offer refunds and flexibility if customers are self-isolating and can no longer attend a booking.
Which? spoke to 12 event organisers and popular attractions, including Vue Cinemas, Legoland, GoApe and London Zoo about their refund policies.
Only Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Center Parcs, Vue Cinemas and Chester Zoo offered a refund up front if a customer had to self-isolate.
Paultons Park, home of Peppa Pig World, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and London Zoo & Whipsnade Zoo will only offer refunds if the customer cannot find an alternative date.
Brits booking with Folly Farm, UK Theatre, STAR tickets or Go Ape only allow gift vouchers or rebookings.
The policy is the same for visitors to Legoland, Chessington, Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, which is owned by Merlin Entertainments.
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The time consumers have to transfer their tickets also varies.
For example, Go Ape gives customers a year to transfer their tickets while Blackpool Pleasure Beach transfers are only valid until the end of 2021,
Which? said the government should help consumers and businesses by giving clear and consistent information about what people need to do if pinged by the app.
Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said people should check the terms and conditions of their booking and keep evidence that shows they had to self-isolate when asking for a refund.
He said: "If people are pinged by the NHS app they are expected to self-isolate for at least 10 days and avoid contact with others.
"These measures are advisory, but if people are told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace it’s a legal requirement to comply.
"Most of us will want to do the right thing and self-isolate if we are pinged by the app. But, because these warnings from the app are guidance, you might not be entitled to a refund for tickets to an event you can no longer attend as normal terms and conditions will apply."
Mr French said people should not be left out of pocket for trying to do the right thing.
He added: "Businesses who aren’t already refunding customers who have been pinged by the app should be flexible and give people their money back if they can’t find another solution."
The refund policies of the UK's main attractions
WHICH? asked ticketing websites and some of the UK's main attractions what their refund policies are if a customer has to self-isolate. These were their responses.
Ticketmaster said: "We work on behalf of our clients, the event organisers. Ultimately these decisions lay with them and we act at their direction. We are not aware of any fan being refused a refund under these circumstances."
Chester Zoo said: "If anyone with pre-booked tickets has been asked to self isolate then we firstly look to reschedule bookings for an alternative date of their choosing (as long as we’re not sold out for the alternative date they wish to book for, in which case we may ask them to opt for another.
"Although it’s fairly rare that we can’t move them to their first preferred date). If, however, the customer should prefer, then we issue a full refund. This includes family and group tickets - for example, if say a group of six is booked in and just one of the party is requested to isolate, we’ll rebook or refund all six."
Go Ape said: "If a customer has to alter their booking due to Covid-related reasons such as the need to self-isolate they will be issued with a gift voucher for the full value of their booking. This means that they can return when they are able using the gift voucher (gift vouchers are valid for 365 days). "
James Mancey, operations director at Paultons Park, said: “Staff and guest safety remains our top priority and so it is our duty to ensure that families don’t attend the park when they have been asked to self-isolate. We therefore encourage guests to instead visit the park at a later date, at no extra cost.
“We appreciate the frustration and disruption that self-isolation can cause families and our customer service teams are currently working with impacted families to help rearrange their visit for a date when it is safe and convenient to visit.
“We have taken this approach to ensure that every family has a safe, fun and memorable day at Paultons Park.”
UK Theatre said: "Throughout the pandemic, our member theatres have been offering unprecedented booking flexibility - a 'book with confidence, exchange with ease' policy means that theatre ticketholders can exchange their tickets up to 24 hours ahead of a performance if they (or someone in their group) can no longer attend due to Covid - including being told to self-isolate through the NHS app."
London and Whipsnade Zoos said: "ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos have pledged to do all we can to ensure our visitors are able to enjoy a brilliant day out, exploring the wonders of wildlife, during these still uncertain times - including offering ‘flexi-tickets', open-ended tickets which are valid for 12 months.
"Furthermore, if any of our visitors, either individuals or members of a group or family booking, need to self-isolate, ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos will gladly reschedule their visit, completely free of charge, to a more suitable date.
"For visitors who are unfortunately unable to reschedule their tickets, refunds will be issued. "
Folly Farm in Wales said: "We’ve put in place a free pre-booking system via Eventbrite so visitors have the flexibility to change their date should they, or any member of their booking, need to self-isolate.
"We‘re encouraging visitors to pay for their admission on arrival at our entrance tills but if they wish to purchase admission tickets online in advance these are valid for a visit within three months of purchase. So, visitors can re-book their date on Eventbrite when the isolation period is over and use the same admission tickets."
Blackpool Pleasure Beach said: "If guests are unable to visit due to Covid-19 we will transfer their booking to an alternative date free of charge or refund their booking."
Center Parcs said: "Our 'book with confidence' guarantee allows guests to cancel and receive a full refund, or move their break to a later date, in the event of them no longer being able to, or no longer wishing to, visit Center Parcs. This is available in the 11 weeks before their break and would include where a member of the party has been asked to self-isolate."
Merlin Entertainments said: "We understand that our guests may at any time be personally impacted by Covid-19, such as being pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app or if they have developed coronavirus symptoms, in which case they may require to change the date/time of their pre-booked tickets to visit one of our attractions.
"The health and safety of our guests and staff is our absolute priority and in these instances we will happily organise a rebooking of their tickets to an alternative date in the future. For any guests whose booking has been affected, we kindly ask them to contact the attraction they have booked for using the contact us form on the attraction website and a member of the team will be in touch as soon as possible."
Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers affiliated venues: "Despite continuing difficulties and uncertainties for everyone, promoters, producers, venues and ticket agents work to find the best solutions for customers that can’t attend events because of Covid, just as they have since March 2020.
"Very often, customers can be rebooked into other performances or offered credit that can be used at a later date. They may also have bought ticket protection that covers them for that cost. Ticket sellers work to policies decided by event organisers and liaise with them to provide the right resolution for each customer."
Vue cinemas said it would issue a refund if a customer was self-isolating.
we take a look at the businesses which have had to close due to the pingdemic.
In just one week, more than 600,000 Brits were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 App, according to NHS figures.
Millions have been deleting the NHS Test and Trace app to avoid isolation as the Delta variant rips.