Blue Monday is over and people are thinking about holidays, but with the multitude of ways in ways in which people can book we need to be much more careful of how we book with whom and be aware of consumer rights.
Make sure your holiday in the sun doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket
With the weather so cold and adverts for holidays upon us, our thoughts turn to booking holidays in warmer places in the busiest time for travel agents. But as they all compete and more choice is available on how to book, including through sites not based in the EU, what do we need to look out for?
Booking through companies not based in UK
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! has come across many people who have fallen foul of travel agents or companies making themselves looking like one which are not based in the UK. For example, Susan booked accommodation with Booking.com at the cost of £357.50. The company cancelled less than 24 hours before the trip because the hotel was ‘overbooked’. Susan only discovered that the alternative accommodation didn’t exist when she arrived in London. She had to pay a further £900 to stay in inconvenient accommodation, resulting in numerous taxi and bus fares. The company told Susan to email them and attach invoices and receipts, but she did not get a response, refund or even an apology. She was also £982.50 out of pocket. She eventually got her money back including out of pocket costs and a goodwill gesture of £250 by quoting relevant laws.
Robert’s mother had been charged a £30 fee after the booking process on a website that searches for flights then charges an administration fee on top, which she was not told about. The company’s hidden terms and conditions said that a charge could be made but did not provide the amount! Writing to the CEO and quoting relevant EU laws meant he got his money back.
So what are your rights?
Your rights booking through a UK or EU-based website
- ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licence) is a government-run financial protection scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). All monies you pay for package holidays involving flights and holidays including a flight plus accommodation and/or car hire, must be protected under an ATOL licence
- ABTA(Association of British Travel Agents) follow a code of conduct, so if they break that you can report them to ABTA.
- EU Directive 2005/29/EC (for the UK Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008) when a shopper makes a purchasing decision s/he would have made had s/he been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.
- Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have a right to be refunded if you make a claim within 6 years (5 in Scotland) for purchases over £100 and less than £30,000. You are covered if you pay as little as 1p but the item costs more than £100. But remember you may be charged a percentage of the cost for a transaction fee, but you can try to pay a small amount on the card and the whole cost will be covered.
- Purchases bought on debit cards may be covered by this voluntary scheme, the rules set by card issuers such as Mastercard and Visa, check if your bank is covered.
Your rights for holidays booked through UK tour operators
- Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 The organiser (tour operator) is liable for the failures of hoteliers, suppliers and services within the contract. If the holiday is cancelled, the consumer is entitled to a substitute package of equivalent or superior quality (if the other party to the contract is able to offer such a substitute) or to take a substitute package of lower quality and recover the difference in the price or to have a full refund.
- The organiser must not provide mis-leading information and provide details about changes as soon as possible. The consumer is entitled to redress for a variety of things dependent on what regulation has been broken and when.
Your rights for holidays taken in the UK
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 entitles you to services that are carried out with reasonable skill and care and with information given verbally or in writing to the consumer, which is binding where the consumer relies on it.
Dewdney says you should be careful when you book but that you can nearly always get redress, so long as you know your legal rights. “Armed with your rights you can feel more confident that you won’t lose money either in the booking process or if anything goes wrong once on holiday.”