Is it part of a package holiday?
Package holidays might conjure up images of sun-burned revellers in Zante, but the legal definition is a bit broader and means you benefit from extra consumer rights if things go wrong.
Your holiday is probably a package if:
- it was advertised as a package or all-inclusive deal
- you bought the holiday for an inclusive or total price
- you bought more than one part of your holiday, such as flights and accommodation, from one company with one payment
- after booking one part of your holiday, you were prompted to buy another and your personal and payment details were transferred so you didn’t have to enter them again. You completed this all within 24 hours of the first booking.
- if it's a package trip you can use our step-by-step guide to complain about a package holiday.
1 Do you have grounds for a complaint?
If your hotel accommodation isn't part of a package trip it and something has gone wrong it will be easier to get your money back if you booked your hotel in the UK or with a UK travel company, because the Consumer Rights Act gives you some protection.
It means the supplier – in this case the hotel – must carry out the service of providing a hotel room with 'reasonable care and skill'.
What is ‘reasonable’ will differ according to the star rating of the hotel, but even the cheapest room must meet basic levels of cleanliness.
Your hotel has to supply the accommodation promised so if you were told it offered a heated pool and air-conditioning, for example, you're entitled to get these.
Hotel booking website's like Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago are also required to:
- make it clear when hotels appear higher in search results because of how much commission they're paying the site.
- not give a false impression of limited availability of rooms or hotel popularity or include sold-out hotels. These tactics pressure people to book more quickly.
- be clearer about discounts and only promote deals that are actually available at that time.
If any of this is familiar, it sounds like you have the right to claim some money back.
You can also claim for out of pocket expenses, too. For example, if the food that was part of an all-inclusive deal was inedible, you could claim the reasonable cost of buying food elsewhere.
Top tips to make a hotel complaint
- Complain to your hotel or accommodation provider immediately if you're unhappy
- Collect video or photographic evidence of any problems you have
- Keep all receipts of extra expense you incur
- Use this template hotel complaint letter to help make your claim.
2 Make a claim while you're at the hotel
To make a claim about your accommodation on holiday, take the following steps:
- Ask for an official complaint form and get it signed by the hotel staff or tour rep
- Take photos or video footage of any problems so you have evidence
- Note the dates and write a general account of events
- Ask fellow travellers if they would act as witnesses to back up your complaint
- Keep all receipts of extra expenses you have to pay, such as changing hotel
If you receive an offer of compensation, check whether it's made on condition that it's a 'full and final settlement'.
If so, consider carefully whether it compensates you in full for the problems you've had.
If it doesn't, make it clear that you are reserving the right to claim for more compensation when you return home.
3 Make a claim when you return home
If you’ve arrived home with memories you’d rather forget, then make sure you make an immediate complaint.
Write to the customer services department of the company involved, whether it's a hotel chain or a tour operator.
Give your booking reference, a clear account of the problems, and what compensation you want.
Enclose copies of all documentary evidence: photos and receipts, but keep the originals in case you need them later.
Use this template hotel complaint letter to help make your claim.
If you paid by credit card you could also claim against your credit card company.
Section 75 Consumer Credit Act makes you credit card company jointly liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a company for items or services that cost between £100 and £30,000
4 Complaining to a trade body
If you booked through a travel company and they fail to resolve the complaint, you can contact the relevant trade body.
This could be ABTA (The Travel Association), which is the UK travel trade association for tour operators and travel agents; the Association of Independent Tour Operators, or the Travel Trust Association.
ABTA now has an online complaints hub which enables you to make a complaint about an ABTA member. Be aware that the travel company you complain about will be able to view your complaint in full via the hub.
If all else fails, you can take legal action against the travel company.
If you're considering using the small claims court, take a look at our step-by-step guide to making a claim.
Hotels outside the UK
When booking foreign accommodation directly, you may be contracting with a company based in another country even though it looks like you booked with a UK company.
This often happens if the accommodation is posted on a listing site where your contract is made directly with the accommodation owner.
In this case, or if you booked direct with a foreign hotel, then you may be dealing with the laws of the country in which the accommodation is located, or where the owner of the hotel lives.
This means you may not be covered by UK law, if the hotel is in the EU similar rules apply and you can try the EU's online dispute resolution service.