Know your rights before buying and cancelling bargain holidays

Package holidays continue to be a popular choice for UK travellers with almost half of the country’s holidaymakers choosing a package holiday for their trip abroad in 2018.

12th February 2019

Many of us often turn to the internet to plan and book our trip, but how can we be sure we are getting the best deal?  To make sure the country’s holidaymakers are being treated fairly, new regulations have been established by The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that will ban online travel websites from promoting misleading sales tactics, applying hidden charges and other unsavoury practices. 

This should go some way to ensure fair and transparent practices within online booking systems, but what if unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel a holiday that has already been paid for in advance?

Jenny Niblett, Solicitor at DAS Law, explains your holiday rights.

What are my legal rights when buying a holiday or booking a hotel room online?

The first thing to check is that the website is UK based and therefore within the jurisdiction of UK law.

When making a booking online, you are entering into a contract. You are therefore entitled to receive a holiday / hotel room that matches the online description and is of a reasonable standard (bearing in mind the price paid). If the reality falls short, your argument is one of breach of contract and you may be entitled to claim compensation.

Can I cancel an online holiday or hotel room booking without charge and how do I compare one site with another?

If you have booked a package holiday, you may be entitled to cancel the holiday without paying a fee if you feel that the holiday company has made significant changes to the holiday, if prices go up after you book (and the terms and conditions don’t provide for this), or if you are unable to get to your destination because of exceptional circumstances (such as a natural disaster).

If you want to cancel for any other reason, you may incur a termination fee. It would be sensible to check the terms and conditions of the contract for more information. Generally, the longer time period there is before the holiday, the higher the chance of a refund.

If you have booked a hotel independently, you will need to check the terms and conditions of the booking.

In terms of comparing prices, rather than approaching hotels directly and building up a picture of price comparisons, you can obviously make use of online booking sites. Nevertheless, a consumer should be cautious and explore thoroughly whether the price quoted includes or excludes additional fees / taxes etc.

If I find a cheaper holiday deal on another site, can I cancel my booking and get my money back?

Ultimately, you would need to check the terms and conditions of the booking to see whether there is any cancellation fee or conditions relating to a cancellation.

How do I complain about a holiday booking? Can I request a refund if my holiday plans are changed by the tour operator?

If the holiday was a package holiday and you have a complaint about the travel agent, you can write to them directly. If the agent was acting on behalf of another party such as a tour operator, you should follow the relevant complaints procedure. This should be in the booking terms and condition which you can request from the travel agent.

If the tour operator is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), you can complain to them using their online portal.

If you booked your hotel independently, you can take your complaint directly to the hotel as your contract is with them.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

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