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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:

The best way to complain discussed on Rip Off Briatin Live

 

Categories
Laws Online shopping

The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 Improve Customer Rights

What’s all this mean then? Something that consumers can approve of that the EU has achieved? These new regulations come into force on the 13th June 2014 and replace the distance selling regulations 2000 and ‘doorstep’ selling regulations 2008. The aim was to ensure that consumers would be confident in buying anywhere in Europe.

Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012;
Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013; and
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations.

The implementation has a significant effect in modernising consumer law, much of which was written 20 -30 years ago, particularly in relation to digital content that of course was not previously covered.  The new laws have introduced a new distinct category to deal specifically with digital content, which will sit along-side existing categories dealing with the provision of goods and services. Part of the Consumer Rights Directive has already been implemented by way of the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which came into force in April 2013. The Regulations mean traders can no longer charge consumers fees that exceed “the cost borne by the trader” for the use of a particular means of payment whether cheque, direct debit, debit or credit card, or other.

The information which a trader must give to a consumer before and after making a sale

This is the need to ensure the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs.  When retailers send you email confirmation of the purchase this must now include a full description of the goods and services purchased including their characteristics and the full price including tax and any additional charges or delivery prices.

How that information should be given

The purpose of the ‘durable medium’ requirement is to ensure that, should a dispute arise at some point after the contract has been concluded, both parties have a record about what was agreed. The burden of proof that the relevant information has been provided rests with the trader.

The right for consumers to change their minds when buying at a distance or off-premises

Consumers now have 14 days to return items because they change their mind. In addition, refunds on cancelled contracts can be delayed until goods are returned. However, if the company has not provided the right information to the consumer then the length of the cooling off period could be extended. Although there are some exemptions, such as bespoke items, downloads have now been added and is no longer exempt. So, if like me you purchase the wrong download by mistake you can now get your money back! If you have downloaded then you won’t get your money back which seems fair enough really!

Unless stated otherwise you will pay for the return postage for any change of mind purchase.

Delivery times and passing of risk

Unless agreed with the trader, goods should be delivered without undue delay and within 30 days. If a particular date or period for delivery has been agreed then delivery should be within that time.

A prohibition on any additional payments which appear as a default option

Traders will need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – e.g. pre-ticked boxes for additional payments, will no longer be permitted. Consumers will not be liable for costs which they have not been told, pre-contract, that they must bear. Even I’ve been caught out by a certain large on line retailer which doesn’t like paying taxes with this. I got my money back when I challenged them with unfair practice but now I have more Laws to throw at them if they do it after June 13th!

A prohibition on consumers having to pay more than the basic rate for post-contract customer helplines

Where traders offer telephone helplines for consumers to contact them about something they have bought, there should be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no more than the basic rate.

So all in all this is good news for the consumer. In particular, the much requested banning of high rate numbers for customer service and complaint lines, traders now have to supply basic rate numbers. It’s really good too to see downloadable digital content covered by these regulations too.

So, all good news for the consumer, more legislation to follow later in the year.

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

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

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