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Buying a Holiday Online: Consumer Rights, Cancellations, Refunds and Complaints

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 27 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Buying A Holiday Online: Consumer Rights, Cancellations, Refunds And Complaints

With the advent of the Internet, booking any paying for a holiday has never been easier or cheaper. Buying a holiday over the Internet, you are effectively cutting out the 'middle man' - known to most as the high street travel agent. This in turn often reduces the administration costs, therefore reducing the overall price that you will pay for the holiday.

However, before you buy online, it is always a good idea to be aware of your rights before you buy. This article outlines your rights in relation to buying online, what to do if you want to cancel, request a refund or wish to make a complaint.

Consumer Rights

When buying a holiday online, you are still covered by your consumer rights, providing that the website is UK-based, and therefore within the jurisdiction of UK law. These basic rights are as follows:

  • The name of the business owner or trader
  • Their geographical address (no PO Box numbers), and ideally a contact telephone number
  • An accurate description of the goods and services on sale to you
  • A full disclosure of the full cost of the services and products on sale, including otherwise 'hidden' costs such as supplements and taxes, before you make your final purchase
  • The company's cancellation policy and your rights in relation to cancelling a product or serviceHowever, when purchasing online you are also entitled to rights as set out by the EU's Distance Selling Directive. In the UK this translates as the Distance Selling Regulations (2000). These regulations stipulate that you should have several key pieces of information made available to you before you buy, namely:
  • That you have what is known as a 7 working day 'cooling off' period, where if you change your mind you are entitled to a refund. Further to the Distance Selling Regulations regarding the 7-day cooling off period, you should always check the company's cancellation policies and the effect they have on refunds.
  • Proper description of all the goods and services on offer to you
  • A written confirmation after payment describing all the goods and services that you have paid for.
To make sure that you are fully protected, it is best to opt for a UK website that has been approved by the regulatory body. For package deals, contact the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and for independent outlets, the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) is the authority to look out for. Accredited members will usually display the logo on the website, but if you are in any doubt as to whether they are genuinely accredited, then you should be able to contact them via telephone, or contact ABTA or AITO directly to confirm.

Further to this, if you book a package deal with a UK operator, you will have some extra protection, as outlined under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. This is because the tour operator you have booked with has a responsibility to look after any payments you have made before you've taken the holiday, as well as looking after you whilst you're on your holiday. Ultimately, if your tour operator goes under before you have taken or completed your package holiday, you will still be able to continue as normal without the need for any extra payments. If you have booked a flight as part of your package deal, you should also note that your tour operator should hold a special license from the Civil Aviation Authority. This license is called an Air Travel Organiser's License (ATOL), and will ensure that as a customer you have all the proper protection and rights in place in regards to air travel.

Remember that just because a company uses a .co.uk domain, or uses a UK within the website name, this does not necessarily mean that the company operates within the UK and under UK jurisdiction.

Cancellations and Refunds

If you decide to tailor your own holiday - by choosing your own flights, accommodation and travel dates - then you will not be as well protected as well as if you were to take out a package deal with a UK our operator. Basically this means that should things go wrong, or you want to make a complaint, then you will probably not be able to arrange alternative travel or accommodation, or seek compensation. It is best in this instance to take out some comprehensive travel insurance to try and protect yourself as best as possible - but always read the small print!

Booking online using a credit card will also provide you with further protection if the tour operator is based within Great Britain. When paying online, if the website address (URL) starts with https:// then you will be transferring your payment over a secure server.If you believe that any of your consumer rights were abused - for instance the holiday was not properly described, or the services offered were not received, then because of the nature of credit card protection and liability, you may be able to claim back against your credit card provider too. This is not always the case if the payment (essentially the contract made between you and the seller) was made outside of Great Britain.

Complaints

There is no set procedure for making complaints about your holiday. To initiate a complaint process, the best idea is to go directly to the tour operator. If this does not resolve your complaint, then your next step is to take the matter up with ABTA or AITO, or the Consumer's Association. The last option available to you is taking court action, which should only be done with appropriate legal advice. Free advice can be sought from the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

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I have just booked a holiday with Jet 2 Holidays, its travelling in 35 days and I have paid the full amount on my credit card, I have received the confirmation email etc.. I then several hours later get a call from Jet2 Customer Services to say the price was incorrect - and that the price advertised was wrong and they want to cancel the booking or pay the additional £1800. Can this really do this, sell a holiday, confirm it and then demand you pay the difference or cancel ??It was a package holiday with them, and looking at their T&C's it looks like once a holiday is confirmed they can only increase the price if they are incurring additional costs, such as airport / embarkation taxes etc.. which would not be £1800 more - really need help as JET 2 are becoming very demanding
NORTH70 - 27-Jun-17 @ 6:48 PM
Arthurjhobe - Your Question:
Hi, We booked an all inclusive trip to Bulgaria, when we booked we filtered our choices to hotels with kid clubs.The one we booked stated they had a kids club running 6 days a week during our stay. We booked a two bedroom family duplex, which was shown as a having a separate bedroom. When we arrived, the second bedroom was in fact on an open mezzanine floor. The Kids club was actually an unsupervised play room, with no organised activities. We complained whilst there and was told we if we wanted to relocated it would be at an extra cost to us, if we wasn't prepared to pay, we should contact them on our return. We did this and their reply was to say it clearly states there is no kids club, only an unsupervised play area, and our room is as described on the website. On checking this is indeed the case, however when we checked the previous versions of their web site, it clearly states a kids club and describes the room as a 2 bedroom family duplex. It appears they have changed the web site during the investigation for our complaint and are trying to blame us for not reading it correctly! Dishonest at bed Miss sold and fraudulent at worst.How should we proceed?

Our Response:
You should make a complaint about this to the Advertising Standards Authority and also ABTA if the holiday company is a member. If you have proof of what was promised when you made the original booking, send it with a claim for compensation. Seek legal advice if you are not satifsfied.
OnlineShoppingRights - 27-Jun-17 @ 2:39 PM
Hi, We booked an all inclusive trip to Bulgaria, when we booked we filtered our choices to hotels with kid clubs. The one we booked stated they had a kids club running 6 days a week during our stay. We booked a two bedroom family duplex, which was shown as a having a separate bedroom. When we arrived, the second bedroom was in fact on an open mezzanine floor. The Kids club was actually an unsupervised play room, with no organised activities. We complained whilst there and was told we if we wanted to relocated it would be at an extra cost to us, if we wasn't prepared to pay, we should contact them on our return. We did this and their reply was to say it clearly states there is no kids club, only an unsupervised play area, and our room is as described on the website. On checking this is indeed the case, however when we checked the previous versions of their web site, it clearly states a kids club and describes the room as a 2 bedroom family duplex. It appears they have changed the web site during the investigation for our complaint and are trying to blame us for not reading it correctly! Dishonest at bed Miss sold and fraudulent at worst. How should we proceed?
Arthurjhobe - 26-Jun-17 @ 1:57 PM
hI, i booked a package holidy to dubai [hotel, flight and half board] in March for a holiday in july via travel company destinology Now suddenly the price for the same holiday has slashed down by 300£ or so last week I contacted destinology and they claim that the hotel has slashed the prices as a special offer and that they are not abe to match the new price Could you kindly educate me with regards to the change in price of a holiday? Many Thanks
sanya52 - 21-Jun-17 @ 8:21 PM
Cully - Your Question:
Hi I made an online booking with on the beach this morning. Got an email saying it was pending so called them. 1st guy looked it up and said will call me back in 10 mins. He never did so called again lady answered she looked and this holiday wasnt available. She looked 3 days before my date and 3 days after nothing available. she gave me 3 ither places to look at so I looked at other operaters with same location and booked. Got an email tonight saying ive now paid for the holiday what wasnt available this morning. There looking at call log and will take 2 days to look it up. Yhis wasnt my fault and if they cant find it am I liable to pay for there mistake?

Our Response:
No you should not have to pay for this. Their call log should be sufficient evidence...did the call handler actually check on your personal booking to find out what stage your booking was at? If you didn't mention it to them and just enquired about the availability of the holiday of course, that will be another matter.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:00 PM
Hi i made an online booking with on the beach this morning . Got an email saying it was pending so called them . 1st guy looked it up and said will call me back in 10 mins. He never did so called again lady answered she looked and this holiday wasnt available. She looked 3 days before my date and 3 days after nothing available. she gave me 3 ither places to look at so i looked at other operaters with same location and booked. Got an email tonight saying ive now paid for the holiday what wasnt available this morning. There looking at call log and will take 2 days to look it up . Yhis wasnt my fault and if they cant find it am i liable to pay for there mistake?
Cully - 13-Jun-17 @ 8:13 PM
If I book a holiday online today with my credit card (with the slight chance I might need to cancel because of employer availability); will I get my money back with the 7 day cooling off period? The holiday is in 16 days time. Thanks for any advice.
JeniPeni - 9-Jun-17 @ 8:30 PM
I booked a holiday in January I paid £200 deposit the date is 4/9/17 I cancelled today am I liable for further payments
Butch - 31-May-17 @ 10:41 PM
Hi could anyone advise me please, I booked a holiday in January to lanzarote do a family of four , the holiday was 1900 we paid 1200 off leaving only 700 .... I had not received any confirmation letter or emails ... I emailed them in middle of April to ask for an extension on my last payment I received no reply so called them at beginning of May to be told they had cancelled my holiday and had refunded 400 and they would be keeping my 800 . Do I have any rights to claim this back as I had no written confirmation about holiday ?
Lilydarcy70 - 29-May-17 @ 6:13 PM
Hi I booked a family holiday through Sunshine Holidays to Sidari in Feb for 2 adults and 3 children. We were informed on the 13/5/17 that the hotel we have booked will no longer be available, we were offered an alternative in Acharvi and asked to look through there websiteto see if there was an alternativeaccommodation we could suggest, unfortlunatly there was only one bed appartments left. We got back on touch to say that we would go anywhere but not Achieve. One week later we were offered an futher hotel in Acharvithis time a down grade to the one we had booked. It is now the 29/5/17 and have been told as soon as they hear anything they will be in touch.Please advise as it is only six weeks till our holiday and we don't know what to do.
Jill - 29-May-17 @ 2:06 PM
Al - Your Question:
Hi, I've booked a holiday for the beginning of July which I've paid for in full. I received a email two days ago advising me that there will be work carried out for the two weeks that I'm there in the main foyer and main pool. Advising of noise and disruption. I've requested a full refund but they are refusing where do I stand legally

Our Response:
Does it describe the extent of the noise? If your company is ABTA registered they should offer you alternative accommodation. Here's what the ABTA Code of conduct says:
"if you've already booked your holiday and your ABTA travel company then becomes aware of building works that may reasonably be considered to seriously impair the enjoyment of your holiday, they must, without delay, notify you of the situation and offer you the opportunity to transfer to alternative accommodation. Where the alternative constitutes a significant change to your booking, they should offer you the option of cancelling without penalty, or transferring to an alternative holiday, if available."
You could also take the holiday as planned but record evidence of the disruption and any impact that it has on your holiday in order to make a compensation claim on your return.
If you're not happy with the way the company has handled your complaint here are the ABTA help details
OnlineShoppingRights - 25-May-17 @ 10:57 AM
Hi, I've booked a holiday for the beginning of July which I've paid for in full. I received a email two days ago advising me that there will be work carried out for the two weeks that I'm there in the main foyer and main pool. Advising of noise and disruption. I've requested a full refund but they are refusing where do i stand legally
Al - 23-May-17 @ 2:13 PM
Hiya, iv just found out that my neighbours daughter who has learning difficulties has booked and paid for a holiday in my name. We were talking about going abroad next year and to be honest we are going to be booking in a few weeks. I have all the details in an envelope by my laptop. Long story short she has gone onto the thomson website and booked a holiday. She has done this tonight is there anyway I can get back the £450.00 deposit. I feel so guilty for leaving my details and bank card about. It's a very expensive holiday she's booked to!!
Kirstyk90 - 20-May-17 @ 9:39 PM
Advice appreciated: I booked a villa last August with a company I have used twice before based in Majorca. Paid 30% deposit on credit card. I have been trying to contact them for two weeks with no luck. Phone not connecting. No response to emails. I am starting to think there may be a problem. There is no address on website other than email contact and phone number. There have been no social media posts since 2016. How long do I reasonable leave things with no contact before I make alternative arrangements and attempt to get me deposit back? Many thanks
SH - 29-Apr-17 @ 11:31 PM
i booked and paidfor a holiday through Olympic holidays in October 2016 to go in August 2017 I gota phone call to say that the day we should be travelling which is 16th August has now been cancelled and we can go on the 17th losing a full day they have offered us 27 pound as payment for losingthis day however as there are 4 adults going in 2 apartments this doesn't seem a lot we worked out the cost of the lost day at 57 pound each should we be offered full refund for the lost day?
beil89 - 19-Apr-17 @ 6:34 PM
StefanStoddart - Your Question:
Booked a holiday and took my money but didn't tell me about an additional £250 cost on arrival at resorts

Our Response:
Check the full terms and conditions that you were given at the time of booking. If there is no mention of this compulsory charge, then complaint to the holiday company and ask to be refunded/compensated for this amount.
OnlineShoppingRights - 12-Apr-17 @ 11:59 AM
Booked a holiday and took my money but didn't tell me about an additional £250 cost on arrival at resorts
StefanStoddart - 10-Apr-17 @ 4:18 PM
Kam - Your Question:
Hi Just need a little advise pleaseI have booked a holiday through "superescapes" company all went smooth as anything but then I went to see the hotel and reviews on it and it was only bad ones also hotel mean to be closed a year before I simply would like to get a full refund on it the problem is that it was saying "non-refundable" can I still change my mind and get a full refund of them please help as I'm really getting some kind of anxiety just to think about it,please advise

Our Response:
The buyer does have a certain responsibility to check out this sort of thing (reviews etc) before making a buying decision. But if you think the description of the holiday does not match your experience you may be able able to claim compensation. You may not be able to cancel in advance. Contact the tour provider and ask them for details.
OnlineShoppingRights - 30-Mar-17 @ 11:23 AM
Hi Just need a little advise please I have booked a holiday through "superescapes" company all went smooth as anything but then I went to see the hotel and reviews on it and it was only bad ones also hotel mean to be closed a year before I simply would like to get a full refund on it the problem is that it was saying "non-refundable" can I still change my mind and get a full refund of them please help as I'm really getting some kind of anxiety just to think about it,please advise
Kam - 29-Mar-17 @ 1:34 AM
Tinkerbell - Your Question:
I booked a holiday with teletext holidays at the start of the month the guy that took the booking gave me the price I was very shocked at the price as it seemed so cheap and he said yes that's the total price for four people two cases transfers and each couple staying different different lengths of stay , he sent me a email to see if I was happy that all was ok and he had confirmed , so I went ahead gave £500 deposit and a few days later I get an email saying they will refund my accomadition money as according to them there was an operational problem. Can they do this or do they have to find me alternative acc I wouldn't mind but the week before I had rang for a quote for three people and when I got in touch to book they said there had been a mistake and they had quoted me for one person instead of 3. Please help

Our Response:
It sounds like poor practice but as your money has been refunded, it's unlikely you will have much recourse. It's worth reporting to Trading Standards and Advertising Standards Authority though as they are giving out misleading information to attract people.
OnlineShoppingRights - 2-Mar-17 @ 12:45 PM
I booked a holiday with teletext holidays at the start of the month the guy that took the booking gave me the price I was very shocked at the price as it seemed so cheap and he said yes that's the total price for four people two cases transfers and each couple staying different different lengths of stay , he sent me a email to see if I was happy that all was ok and he had confirmed , so I went ahead gave £500 deposit and a few days later I get an email saying they will refund my accomadition money as according to them there was an operational problem . Can they do this or do they have to find me alternative acc I wouldn't mind but the week before I had rang for a quote for three people and when I got in touch to book they said there had been a mistake and they had quoted me for one person instead of 3 . Please help
Tinkerbell - 28-Feb-17 @ 9:42 PM
Hi, I booked a cruise and wanted to make sure everything was included - gratuities and parking.I contacted a few travel agents to get the best quote, and another company said they would beat it. I paid the deposit and they sent me an email listing out everything that was included, including grats and parking. I emailed them the other day to find out how to book the parking and they emailed back saying it is not included. I said that I have got it listed in an email, they said on the website when i booked it said it wasn't included for certain cabins, however i didn't book it through the website, it was a personal quote from an employee at the company who wanted to beat the other quote so gave us free parking! What are my rights? Do they have to honour the parking? If not, can I cancel and book with someone else without losing the deposit? Thanks
Nudgey - 2-Feb-17 @ 12:19 PM
I booked a villa on the TUI villa website which is based in Germany. I gave my credit card details for the deposit to be taken. I decided to cancel the villa couple of days later, no deposit was taken on my card. The company have contacted me telling me I still need to pay the deposit but they want me to resend my card details and said I sent the incorrect details when booking the villa. Do I still have to pay?
Blossom - 23-Jan-17 @ 1:46 PM
Hi I have booked a trip away for 5 nights with holiday genie. I paid £200 deposit on Tuesday 10 Jan 2017. I can't do 5 nights and asked for 3 or 4 nights. Can I cancel and will I lose £200 deposit . Thanks Siona
Si - 12-Jan-17 @ 3:23 PM
I booked a holiday directly with the apartment owner for this year for an island I visited last year. I paid a deposit of £175 via bacs as requested but ill health has forced me to cancel. My booking was done via email, I received no terms and conditions or booking form and the owner did not state in the email that the deposit was non refundable until I requested a refund. Am I entitled to a full refund?
Dyffryn - 2-Jan-17 @ 11:39 PM
I had booked a holiday for my parents 3 days inBudapest with 321 travel ltd harold Hill company.at first was £86 per person and then it changed to £129 per person included flight and accommodation from southend airport to Budapest + return flight. Then; themail next day agent call back and told us that if we want to keep the same flight..department 10am from southend airport and arrived budapest 3am mid night..this is ridiculous to us so we force to change airport ( from southend airport change to Stansted airport) at fist they want to charges us more but after complaint to the manager ..they keep the original price...next day when they sent us the itinerary information...price gone up ..we have to pay £84 more than normal price. So the holiday start on December time..can I still cancel the trip without paying any cancellation fee. Cancellation fee they charge is £100 pound. Anyone help me to solve the problem...
E - 22-Nov-16 @ 5:33 PM
RobE - Your Question:
“Why no leniency towards medical emergency cancellation?”I wanted to travel to St Vincent, though just coming from Trinidad. I made plans and booked since May to travel to Buccament Bay Resort within the period 29 August - 2 September with my family. An unfortunate event happened in which I had to undergo surgery correct, and as a result I was deemed incapable of flying. I contacted the resort's parent company in the UK (Harlequin Hotels and Resorts) with whom I made the booking, firstly on the hospital bed (Aug 9)and on occasions after (Aug 22-24), providing the necessary documents.I was told I couldn't cancel, and when asked if I would have been able to defer the dates I was told yes, as a goodwill gesture after which I proceeded to cancel with LIAT. However I didn't realized that I had 7 days to provide the new dates, but I was recuperating at that point and when I did asked about some specific dates 12 days after(Sep 6), I was told that my travel has been forfeited due to a 'no show'. I couldn't have shown, couldn't I?Well just the thought of losing my money had me enraged. I called them, and they continue to maintain I didn't show. After contacting customer relations, we were told that we didn't show so there is nothing they can do (again, how could I have?), proceed to claim with my travel insurance. I informed them I don't have travel insurance and neither was I asked at the point of booking,, so they pondered and came back with an offer in which they would forfeit 1 night of my travel for not showing (I couldn't have), and a charge of a supplemental fee of US$50 per night for the remaining nights (reason unknown).Finding this unfair I try to contact the manager in Buccament in St Vincent, but I never got her. I eventually got a hold of the reservation coordinator who showed concern when I spoke, so I emailed her with evidence of what's going on. I guess she contacted the parent company who then sent me an email advising that I am not to contact the resort directly ever again, and if I can't pay the supplemental charge of USD 150 (which covers 3 night, and for which I'm being penalised twice, as they have already forfeited a night) by Sep 27, my travel would be permanently cancelled.I never wanted to lose my hard earned money, but Harlequin's communication style has made me uncomfortable and fearful of prejudice. I'm hurting right now,as I just lost TT $10,000 while still trying to cover my hospital bills because I couldn't meet the deadline.I even tried to reason for cheaper accommodation, but I was told I have to pay the additional supplemental charge on top of the forfeiture.

Our Response:
You should always read the terms and conditions when making a holiday booking and also always take out travel insurance. If you feel the company has been unreasonable or has given you any false information you could try checking with ATOL and ABTA
OnlineShoppingRights - 22-Nov-16 @ 10:06 AM
“Why no leniency towards medical emergency cancellation?” I wanted to travel to St Vincent, though just coming from Trinidad. I made plans and booked since May to travel to Buccament Bay Resort within the period 29 August - 2 September with my family. An unfortunate event happened in which I had to undergo surgery correct, and as a result I was deemed incapable of flying. I contacted the resort's parent company in the UK (Harlequin Hotels and Resorts) with whom I made the booking, firstly on the hospital bed (Aug 9)and on occasions after (Aug 22-24), providing the necessary documents. I was told I couldn't cancel, and when asked if I would have been able to defer the dates I was told yes, as a goodwill gesture after which I proceeded to cancel with LIAT. However I didn't realized that I had 7 days to provide the new dates, but I was recuperating at that point and when I did asked about some specific dates 12 days after(Sep 6), I was told that my travel has been forfeited due to a 'no show'. I couldn't have shown, couldn't I? Well just the thought of losing my money had me enraged. I called them, and they continue to maintain I didn't show. After contacting customer relations, we were told that we didn't show so there is nothing they can do (again, how could I have?), proceed to claim with my travel insurance. I informed them I don't have travel insurance and neither was I asked at the point of booking,, so they pondered and came back with an offer in which they would forfeit 1 night of my travel for not showing (I couldn't have), and a charge of a supplemental fee of US$50 per night for the remaining nights (reason unknown). Finding this unfair I try to contact the manager in Buccament in St Vincent, but I never got her. I eventually got a hold of the reservation coordinator who showed concern when I spoke, so I emailed her with evidence of what's going on. I guess she contacted the parent company who then sent me an email advising that I am not to contact the resort directly ever again, and if I can't pay the supplemental charge of USD 150 (which covers 3 night, and for which I'm being penalised twice, as they have already forfeited a night) by Sep 27, my travel would be permanently cancelled. I never wanted to lose my hard earned money, but Harlequin's communication style has made me uncomfortable and fearful of prejudice. I'm hurting right now,as I just lost TT $10,000 while still trying to cover my hospital bills because I couldn't meet the deadline. I even tried to reason for cheaper accommodation, but I was told I have to pay the additional supplemental charge on top of the forfeiture.
RobE - 21-Nov-16 @ 2:05 AM
I booked a holiday with travel republic for next month but when i got the details back they were the wrong days i asked for i contacted them to change dates but they said i would have to contact ryanair first to change flight dates there office was closed im now worried i will have to pay additional fees would this happen..feeling frustrated
Help - 14-Oct-16 @ 9:31 PM
I booked a holiday with love holidays on Monday.Everything was fine on their confirmation which directs me to pay. At the end of the payments was told a detailed receipt would come via e mail. It did. All totally wrong. I booked for a party of four only two had a flight seat. The cost of the hotel for four adults was in the region of 537.00 and I have been charged 837. I have since gone back in their site and the cost is still in the region of 537.00. I have been contacting them since Monday with this and all I get is its with our it support staff. Where do I stand ????? Frustrated
Fi - 14-Oct-16 @ 2:08 PM
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