Flight compensation warning: How to spot ‘red flags’ and avoid being scammed

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Flight cancellations are an unfortunate reality faced by holidaymakers looking to get away this summer, and with no end in sight, compensation claims will continue to surge for travellers who have been let down by airlines. Booking refunds and disruption pay-outs are both viable options for out-of-pocket travellers, but they’re not always easy to claim online without opportunist scammers taking a chance on frustrated consumers. Express.co.uk spoke to the legal experts to find out how to spot the difference between legitimate, and fraudulent sites while seeking a pay-out for flight disruption this summer.

Direct communication with the airline is the simplest way to claim a refund or compensation on flight disruption, but industry experts have warned against illegitimate organisations scamming passengers who are struggling to get what they’re entitled to.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Jamie Patton, from consumer law specialists Johnson Law Group said: “Just like compensation for flight delay, you have the right to seek a payment of up to £505 if your flight is cancelled plus any additional out-of-pocket expenses.

“Many airlines are currently offering refunds for the cost of tickets but not entering into any discussion about an additional payment of compensation over and above what you paid for the flight.

“If that happens, then you may need to seek legal assistance to pursue such a claim but there are many organisations out there that are not reputable or legitimate. So, proceed with caution.”

How to avoid being scammed while seeking flight compensation

The first step to seeking legitimate help for flight disruption is to contact the appropriate airline directly and state your rights – but how can you tell if you’re actually dealing with the right company?

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Cody Benson, technical legal manager at Bott and Co – a solicitor specialising in flight delay compensation  explained that there are three red flags to look for if you suspect that you’re dealing with an airline impersonator.

These include:

  • The URL – it should be britishairways.com, Ryanair.com, easyjet.com etc.
  • Being asked to pay a fee or sign any paperwork (including online) – a legitimate airline would never do this
  • Poached logos – illegitimate companies have been known to use the airline’s logo to trick passengers who have voiced claims on social media, so always cross-check verified accounts

If you are struggling to receive your refund money or extra compensation through the airline there is help available.

Mr Patton said: “When searching for assistance online, any organisation that is offering to help you claim your compensation needs to either be a solicitors’ firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), or a claims management company (CMC) regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).”

You can tell if an organisation is legitimate by looking for a few simple clues.

Registration number

Both solicitors’ firms and claims management companies will have a registration number showing they are regulated if they are reputable.

Mr Patton said: “These numbers should always be contained within the website and can be checked against either the SRA’s or FCA’s online register.”

A ‘clickable’ logo

In addition to a registration number, all law firms’ websites must have a “clickable” SRA logo visible.

A legitimate website will lead you to a verification landing page run by the SRA.

Mr Patton warned: “Only legitimate law firms have this logo. If they do not, do not proceed!”

A secure website rating

Secure websites will contain a padlock icon on the browser box to prove that they are safe to use.

In most cases, your browser will flag a website that is ‘not secure’, though you should always look for the padlock to double check.

No-win no-fee guarantee

According to Mr Patton, the “biggest red flag of all” is a claims management company that offers this type of compensation guidance without a no-win no-fee guarantee.

He explained that all CMC’s should offer their services for this kind of claim on a no-win no-fee basis, adding that claimants should “look elsewhere” if a company is asking for money up front.

To safely claim compensation using a regulated solicitor, Bott and Co’s Mr Benson explained that you should always check the following:

  • Your designated bank account – any compensations recovered from the claim should be placed in a dedicated bank account to safeguard your funds if the CMC “goes bust”
  • Paperwork – always read paperwork carefully to avoid unwittingly agreeing to “extortionate fees”

What to do if you think you’re dealing with a scammer

Mr Benson said: “A firm will be obliged to give you a 14-day ‘cooling off period’, so if you notice anything unusual during that period then you should simply cancel your claim with them.”

Retracting your claim with a CMC outside of the 14-day period could result in penalty charges, so you should always check the terms and conditions of your agreement.

Mr Benson added: “I think it’s important to make a distinction between firms that charge for the service and ‘scam’, vs firms that simply charge for service.

“It’s not fair to say that all firms that charge a fee are scammers, which is why it’s crucial to do your research before entering a contract with a solicitors to make your claim.”

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