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Pontins faces watchdog probe into claims of ‘discrimination’ against travellers
26 May 2022, 15:09
Pontins has been accused of racially discriminating against travellers by using a banned list of surnames when taking bookings.
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The watchdog has launched an investigation into the holiday park company over "continued concerns" it is discriminating against some guests.
The concerns were raised after a whistleblower alleged Pontins was using an "undesirable guests" list to exclude Gypsies and Travellers.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) verified the whistleblower claims and found practices included a list of Irish surnames.
Staff were told to block potential customers with those names from booking, the watchdog said.
The EHRC said guests with surnames on the list either had their bookings refused or cancelled. Those with an Irish accent were also refused bookings.
The company's commercial vehicle policy also excluded Gypsies and Travellers from its parks.
The owner of Pontins, Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, entered into a 12-month legal agreement last year with the EHRC to prevent racial discrimination.
By declining to provide its services to guests of a certain race or ethnic group, Pontins was "directly discriminating on the basis of race" and breached the 2010 Equality Act, the EHRC said.
Now the watchdog has announced it has ended its agreement with Pontins after alerting the company to potential breaches of the legal agreement.
The EHRC said it was "still concerned" about how the banned guests list is used and the way the services are provided to the Gypsy and Traveller community.
It said it has opened a formal investigation, as it was "not satisfied that Pontins was taking the required steps to prevent unlawful discrimination from occurring".
The watchdog will look to make a formal finding on whether Pontins has committed unlawful acts under the Equality Act.
This includes looking at whether a booking policy requirement that prospective guests are on the electoral register directly or indirectly discriminates on the basis of race.
EHRC chief executive Marcial Boo said: "Any business that refuses to provide services to guests due to their race or ethnic group is likely to be breaking equality law.
"We signed a legally binding agreement with Pontins last year, which we expected to address our concerns about discriminatory behaviour.
"The company's failure to comply has left us with no choice but to use stronger enforcement powers to investigate further.
"The EHRC will continue to use all legal powers at its disposal to ensure that no one experiences racism, whether at a holiday park or elsewhere, simply because of their name, ethnicity or the community they belong to."
The investigation is expected to take months.
Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, which owns Pontins, has been approached for comment.