How to complain when booking a service based in the EU

imagesA friend booked a hotel through Booking.com but hit a problem when the site didn’t accept the credit card. Told to go direct to the hotel (based in Germany) to pay he was horrified to find that he had been charged a 7% credit card fee! In steps The Complaining Cow.

What do you do when booking through a site such as Booking.com that looks like they are the travel agent? (Slightly easier to complain when it is the travel agent at fault see an example here.) Well this actually isn’t the case, it isn’t a travel agent and so your cover isn’t quite what you might think it would be. In addition, Booking.com is actually based in the Netherlands and the terms and conditions state that “To the extent permitted by law, these terms and conditions and the provision of our services shall be governed by and construed in accordance with Dutch law and any dispute arising out of these general terms and conditions and our services shall exclusively be submitted to the competent courts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.” I would have argued that you pay through booking.com and therefore contract is with them, however according to their set up this isn’t the case. They work only as advertiser in reality. They take no responsibility for accuracy of costs etc. and they aren’t based in the UK so we couldn’t use UK law. However… there is EU law. So this is what I wrote for him.

(Remember if this happens to you, you can cancel the booking as you do have the 14 days to cancel but here they wanted to keep the booking.) You could also claim back through the section 75 of Consumer Credit Act 1974 and of course go to court but that would be in Germany!

So, using www.ceoemail.com to get the CEO’s email address for booking.com off went this email from Paul…

On the 28th August 2015 I booked the Langwasser Messe Nichtraucherhotel. However I received an email from Booking.com to say that the credit card could not be submitted. I also received an email directly from the hotel to say that I should pay directly with them as they could not directly verify the card owner. I find this ludicrous given that there is no problem with the account and the card is used on a regular basis.

Once I went through the necessary hoops for the hotel (see attached correspondence) I was then sent an “invoice”. This was not an invoice but a receipt. I found that I had been charged an extortionate fee of roughly £140 to use the credit card.

This is not acceptable. I was not informed by Booking.com or the hotel that I would incur this charge. I note that you are based in the Netherlands and therefore EU law applies. The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case. The email from Booking.com stated that I need to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email from Booking.com clearly led me to believe that my contract was still with Booking.com but the hotel would be processing it only. The “invoice” which I received after payment shows the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge. Requesting that I go a different route breached the Consumer Rights Directive.

In addition to this breach, this directive also states that the trader cannot charge consumers fees that exceed the costs borne by the trader. 7% is clearly in excess of this cost.

I understand from your terms and conditions that my contract is with the hotel. However, the site appears, in the way it works to be the company with whom the consumer has a contract. The emails sent by Booking.com contributed to my taking this transaction without the full correct information given that the first email stated the price with no transaction fee and the second said to proceed a different route, I would have no reason to imagine that there would be any further costs. I believe that this is a breach of the EU Directive 2005/29/EC.

I am really quite appalled by the service I have received by Booking.com and trust that you will look into this matter at your earliest possible convenience. As a business we frequently book hotels through Booking.com, however, given this latest experience I am unsure that we will book again and will be sharing my experiences with colleagues and clients. I trust that you will go some way to assuring me that I will not receive such poor treatment again should I use you in the future.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this fee and a sum for the inconvenience. Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further which may include but not be limited to claiming through my credit card, taking the matter through the Dutch courts, and sharing through various media and social media outlets.

For good measure we also emailed the CEO of the hotel with a similar email.

With hours Paul received emails! The hotel paid up the fee.

So, be careful when you book but nearly always, so long as you know your legal rights, you can get redress. If you want to know more about how you can use EU law and always gain redress take a look at the bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

I also used these EU laws when dealing with a complaint for a Rip Off Britain viewer:

 

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3 Responses to How to complain when booking a service based in the EU

  1. Pingback: All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

  2. Brooke Hockley says:

    I have just sent this email to booking.com and would appreciate your take on it.

    Good Afternoon,

    I am writing to inform you of a transaction for an apartment that was cancelled in advance of the date requested that I have been charged unfairly by ***

    I made the booking in November 2016 and after the loss of the friend that I was supposed to be travelling with cancelled the reservation with an understanding of the 124 Euros fee.
    – Please see attached the confirmation of the original booking specifying the cancellation deadline of this 30% charge being the 25th of May 2017 and also a second email confirming my cancellation request on the 9th of May.

    I have come to the understanding that the apartment was booked with a different account and it wasn’t until last week when I used your website to arrange a hotel stay in London that you have then passed my alternative account details onto the guesthouse without my authorisation. I am disputing the amount of £199.38 but accept the cancellation charge of £116.25.

    This was an unfair transaction which was no fault of my own of which I am assuming you have not liaised with the Guesthoust properly to inform them of my cancellation. Upon checking my inbox I can confirm I have not received any other contact from you or then since my cancellation. Nor have I had much – if at all- help from you regarding this matter via email and phone when the representative apologised and explained that there is nothing that they can do as the Guesthouse are refusing to refund me. They have explained that the transaction is a result of a no-show – which is not the case considering I cancelled in plenty of time before the deadline.

    I hope you can appreciate that I have acted within reason and have been unfairly treated. I have not agreed in any contract to pay the fee that I am disputing and am simply going by the information given to be in the contract from yourselves in my original confirmation.

    I have just returned from a holiday where I encouraged my Father to use your site to book hotels in Monaco, Milan, Florence and Rome and also stayed at a Morgan Russel hotel the weekend just gone. I have always been satisfied with the service that you provide however on this occasion feel that I have been treated unfairly and in fact a terrible way to treat a consumer of good faith. I am an honest person who was forced to make a cancellation for reasons that were out of my hands.

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Kind Regards,

    • The Complaining Cow says:

      Without knowing all the details I can’t really comment. I would advise reading the Post above and seeing Top Tips for any further correspondence.

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