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.

You could 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:

Rip Off Britain Complaining

 

Do Morethan just comparison websites for insurance quotes!

How do you take out your contents and building insurance? I hope you don’t just renew every year and that you look at comparison sites for switching insurance, energy etc. I do this but do do a little more. I also check the site that comes out the cheapest.

Comparison v direct
huh_450

Last year MoreThan came out cheaper on the Moneysupermarket comparison site. But this is when it got odd. I went through Moneysupermarket.com and got a reference number and password which did not work when I clicked to go through to the website. The quote included some cover which I did not wish to have. I looked to see if I could ‘phone to discuss the quote and noted that only an 0844 number was provided. It is now illegal to only provide such numbers for customer helplines under the The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 but oddly it was provided at a later date but it wasn’t on the website!Secondly I tried to use Topcashback* (excellent cashbacksite) and get a quote from MoreThan directly. This seemed to come to much MoreThan the Money supermarket.com quote! But it did not include the cover that I didn’t want! It also requested details on specific items which was not included on the Monesysupermarket.com site. The Moneysupermarket.com quote listed certain other items and not others. Basically, the comparisons between the two sites were ridiculous and one could not change them either.

Complaint

So off went the email to the CEO as I felt that something was seriously flawed with their systems. Why can’t you just get the same cover going through the comparison site as going direct? Why does it cost more direct for a different cover and you can’t use the cashback site when going through the comparison site for the cheaper quote. I stated that I wanted the price stated with moneysupermarket.com minus the cover I didn’t want and to include the cover I did. I also expected to receive the £21.00 Topcashback  to which I felt entitled. I got a new quote about £100 more than other quotes in order to get everything I wanted, and a cheque for the difference between the new quote and the cheaper Moneysupermarket.com quote plus the £21 cashback.

I’m not sure that any Laws were broken here, although one wonders about misleading practices and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. I do think it’s poor practice and would advise anyone looking at their insurance to explore all possibilities and to look at the comparison sites and then look at the site directly for further comparison. Make sure you have the cover you want and contact the company if you see anomalies. My guess is that this practice is quite widespread and that we need to make sure that we are not being ripped off as well as ensuring that we have the cover that we want and need.

Further help

Lots more information about comparison websites, approved sites etc All you need to know about comparison websites

How to save money on your car insurance lots of ideas here!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more guidance, advice, tips, information, consumer laws and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

*refer a friend link so if you sign up I’ll get a few pennies for referring you and you should get a few pennies as a welcome gift!