THE Thomas Cook website where customers can claim refunds for ruined holiday plans crashed today as Brits started submitting claims.
Users received error messages as they put in their details, while others had to make several attempts.
About 800,000 people had been due to travel with the collapsed firm in the coming months, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is handling the refund process.
As a result, the regulator now needs to refund 360,000 ATOL-protected customers.
This includes 100,000 customers who paid by direct debit and 260,000 people who booked their holiday with another form of payment.
Customers who paid by direct debit will get their money back by October 14, but those who paid by another method will have to wait up to 60 days.
The two-month wait starts once the refund application has been sent off.
Customers slammed the CAA on Twitter today for the website issues, with one user saying: "What the hell are you doing? You had weeks to make sure this system is robust."
Another frustrated customer described the claims portal as "pointless and frustrating" before urging the regulator to "address this asap".
The CAA apologised and said it had experienced "unprecedented demand" when it launched the refund website today.
It urged people to "try back again later today".
The claims section of the website went live this morning for those with future bookings for ATOL protected holidays to apply for a refund.
You'll need to give details of your booking, but keep in mind only the first person of the booking confirmation can make a refund claim.
If you are unable to use the online claim forms, you can call the dedicated Thomas Cook call centre on 0300 303 2800 from within the UK or +44 1753 330 330 if you're abroad.
ATOL protected customers who were already abroad when Thomas Cook collapsed can also claim for the cost of replacing parts of their holiday which were financially protected, or expenses for delayed flights.
Affected consumers can find out more information on the dedicated Thomas Cook website here.
How do I know if my holiday is ATOL protected?
WHEN you book a holiday, the ATOL holder or their agent must give you a certificate confirming you are ATOL protected as soon as you hand over any money – including a deposit – for a holiday or flight.
Make sure you obtain and keep all the relevant paperwork in case you need to make a claim.
But be aware, the protection only covers British-based firms, so it's vital to check. When lowcostholidays went bust in 2016, customers weren't protected by ATOL because the company had moved to Spain in 2013.
Some travel companies display the ATOL logo on their websites even though they don't offer financial protection.
To check it's genuine, look for a number on the logo and check it out on the CAA's website.
You should be wary if the travel provider has no ATOL number, or if the number doesn't have four or five digits.
If you aren't sure about the website, don't book through it.
Another key term Brits should be aware of is ABTA. While ATOL protects flight-based packages, ABTA protects everything else such as cruise or self-drive trips.
If you've only booked your flights or accommodation with Thomas Cook then you're unlikely to be financially protected as they're not ATOL protected.
In that scenario, you should try claiming back any extra costs via Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Credit card customers without ATOL protection and who made a purchase between £100 and £30,000 can use Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act to claim back their cash.
There are a few caveats to the legal protection – the purchase you are making must cost between £100 and £30,000 and it's important to remember that it only applies to credit cards.
To make a claim, contact your credit card provider – your first port of call should be its customer service – and tell them you want to make a claim under Section 75.
It should then send you a claim form which you can fill in and your provider will use to process your application.
If you paid for your flights by debit card (or by credit card and the cost is under £100) then you might be able to claim under chargeback rules.
You must do this within 120 days to get money back, but unlike Section 75, this is not a legal requirement.
You can find out more information about your rights for a cancelled Thomas Cook trip here.
Thomas Cook ceased trading with immediate effect on September 23 after the travel firm was unable to pay £200million to its creditors.
Just a day later, crooks pretended to offer Thomas Cook refunds by calling holidaymakers.
The collapse also forced Thomas Cook staff to visit food banks and borrow money after they missed out on final wages.
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