Which? Legal

Advice on holiday issues

Speak to someone at Which? Legal about your accommodation problems and get affordable advice on what you might be able to do.

Hotel booking sites promise to end dodgy tactics

Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Hotels.com, ebookers and trivago have agreed that by 1 September they will:

- 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.

Bookings made from a UK travel company

If you book your hotel in the UK, or from a UK travel company, the Consumer Rights Act gives you some protection.

This mean the supplier – in this case the hotel – must carry out the service of providing a hotel room with reasonable care and skill.

The definition of ‘reasonable’ will differ according to the star rating of the hotel, but even the cheapest room must meet basic levels of cleanliness.

The supplier also 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. 

If you have specific holiday requirements, such as an accessible room with step-free access, make this clear before you book.

Get confirmation in writing that your requirements will be met.

Don’t rely on the ‘special request’ section on your booking form as the company’s terms and conditions may say these requests won’t be guaranteed.

Cancelling your holiday before travel

If you see poor reviews before you travel, or hear first hand that the accommodation you booked might not meet your standards, you may find your options for cancelling are limited.

The hotel could argue that problems would be put right by the time you arrive, or that bad reviews are not accurate and simply the result of disgruntled guests.

By cancelling you could be breaking the contract, or exercising cancellation rights may mean you forfeit some or all the money you paid. 

Check the booking terms and conditions for information about cancellation fees and charges. 

Instead, you could put the supplier on notice that if the property doesn’t match the website description when you arrive that they'll be in breach of contract.

You could then potentially take legal action and claim for out-of-pocket expenses, such as transferring to alternative accommodation or loss of enjoyment, and any court fees you had to pay.

Complaining to the tour operator

If you arrive at your holiday destination only to find the resort is in the middle of a building site,  your 'spacious' room is a pokey cell or you are overbooked, you can claim for loss of bargain, which is a legal way of describing the difference in value between the holiday you paid for and the holiday you got.

For example, if you booked a four-star hotel but were put in two-star accommodation which cost £300 less, you could claim back the difference.

If you booked through a tour operator, complain to the company representative straight away, as they may be able to sort out the problem quickly.  

You can also claim for loss of enjoyment. This is compensation for any upset and disappointment caused.  

The amount you can claim will depend on the seriousness of the breach of contract.

Package holidays

If your holiday was a package, you would be covered under the Package Travel Regulations (PTR)

This means you're entitled  to compensation if the accommodation isn’t up to the standards that you reasonably could have expected based on the information provided online or in brochures.

A package holiday covered by the PTR also means you could bring your claim in a court in your own country instead of in a court overseas.   

Out of pocket expenses

You can 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.

Always give the holiday company the chance to resolve problems first though and if they don’t, keep receipts for all expenses incurred.

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