Holidaymakers that paid for cancellation protection on hotel rooms have been left out of pocket, after Roomer refused to pay out for cancellations caused by coronavirus.
Roomer sells cancellation protection called ‘Flex’ on a variety of online travel agency websites, such as Secret Escapes and Loveholidays. It promises ‘peace of mind’ to customers booking a non-refundable room, paying an 80% refund if they need to cancel for a small fee.
Roomer works as a marketplace for hotel bookings. When someone with a Roomer policy cancels a non-refundable hotel room purchased on a hotel booking site, Roomer will refund them. It then resells the room to someone who wants to buy one at the last minute.
But Roomer has told customers that it won’t refund them for rooms cancelled during the coronavirus crisis.
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The US firm is unregulated in the UK
Disappointed customers of the company have since taken to social media and Trust Pilot to call it ‘fraudulent’ and ‘unethical’.
Despite its actions, in the UK at least, the company is unregulated. Its policies aren’t described as insurance, meaning it isn’t regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Roomer fails to protect customers in hour of need
In response it told us: ‘Roomer is heavily impacted by coronavirus, and our small team of operators have been fighting day and night under very tough circumstances to provide service to our customers.
‘We have offered to refund the fee for customers who haven’t cancelled their reservation yet, and have been doing our best to handle each customer case by case.’
Secret Escapes will no longer work with Roomer
Secret Escapes told Which? Travel: ‘We are very disappointed. Roomer let us and their customers down.
‘When they contacted customers to cancel their policy, it was without our knowledge or consent.
‘We are working very hard with our hotel partners to try and help our customers, including helping them to rebook so that customers who bought a policy with Roomer will not be impacted by their actions.’
It has removed Roomer from the Secret Escapes website.
Loveholidays has removed Roomer from its website
Loveholidays customers have also been affected. The online travel agent told Which? Travel: ‘We recognise Roomer’s decision to void purchased policies from March 13 onwards is disappointing for our customers.
‘Immediately upon being informed that Roomer had decided to void policies and provide refunds, we removed Roomer from our website.
‘We also contacted Roomer on behalf of our customers asking for clarification on their refund policy and requesting their support.’
Roomer told us that included in its Loveholidays terms and conditions, it is not obliged to refund customers if a country’s laws require a hotel or holiday operator in certain circumstances to refund the cost of a reservation, despite it being a non-refundable booking. This however is not in its own terms and conditions on its website.