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

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Jul 2018 | 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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this afternoon I booked a holiday online with thomas cook, zero deposit, monthly payments, on hindsight I remember how painful my knees and hips were on a holiday earlier this year to the same country can I cancel this first thing in the morning and does the 7 day cool off period apply?
posie - 10-Jul-18 @ 11:30 PM
Booked a weekend break to Isle of Wight with hoseasons and purchased cancellation protection cover 5 days ago online. We were not made aware that it is the Isle of Wight festival on the weekend we had booked and as such when we tried to book the ferry crossing to get to the Isle of Wight we were surprised that all the crossings were fully booked to get on and off the Isle of Wight thus disabling us from getting to our destination. I contacted the hoseasons this morning to be told that we are not covered and will not receive any monies back plus will have to pay an additional £53 cancellation fee! I payed with my credit card and wish yo know ifI'm covered to reclaim the cost via my credit card provider as still within the 7 day cooling off period?
Banksie - 19-Jun-18 @ 9:30 PM
Booked a holiday with sunmaster via jet 2 holidays paid a depost of 311 pound and before the remaining balance had to be paid tried to cancel the holiday and got inform we would still have to pay the balance in full If we cancelled or not and that was due to jet 2 fee not sunmaster so I spoke to jet 2 and they said they would cancel now and they not told sunmaster it needed paying in full to cancel within 2more phone calls sunmaster now claiming we only had to pay 50%of the balance if not they would start legal proceedings
Samwell - 17-Jun-18 @ 4:42 PM
les - Your Question:
Booked a holiday cottage with Sykes cottages in june for dec of that year total length of stay was 2 nights. We are in New zealand and their holiday insurance did not cover us. 2 days later we had to cancel this booking and have been charged 30% of the costs. I understand that there was a admin fee of 20 pounds and that is fair enough but it does not seem fair that sykes cottages will easily sell this cottage over the holiday period and still get 160 pounds from us

Our Response:
If it's in their terms and conditions there's not much you can do about this unfortunately.
OnlineShoppingRights - 15-Jun-18 @ 11:24 AM
Booked a holiday cottage with Sykes cottages in june for dec of that year total length of stay was 2 nights.We are in New zealand and their holiday insurance did not cover us. 2 days later we had to cancel this booking and have been charged 30% of the costs.I understand that there was a admin fee of 20 pounds and that is fair enough but it does not seem fair that sykes cottages will easily sell this cottage over the holiday period and still get 160 pounds from us
les - 14-Jun-18 @ 9:25 AM
Charz - Your Question:
We booked a holiday with duplex breaks also born as jt holiday group we booked a holiday that should have been £400 then went up to 600 we had to change date as my mum was taken in to hospital but they have not sent any conformation of the second date flight accomadation and now we have seen all the bad reviews is there any way we could get our money back as I don't want to take my 5 year old and the hole holiday be a disaster as no tickets have been sent or emailed ?

Our Response:
You can't usually cancel a holiday on the basis that you've changed your mind unfortunately. If you are unhappy with anything while you're away be sure to record all the evidence etc and make a claim for compensation if necessary on your reuturn.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Apr-18 @ 2:20 PM
We booked a holiday with duplex breaks also born as jt holiday group we booked a holiday that should have been £400 then went up to 600 we had to change date as my mum was taken in to hospital but they have not sent any conformation of the second date flight accomadation and now we have seen all the bad reviews is there any way we could get our money back as I don't want to take my 5 year old and the hole holiday be a disaster as no tickets have been sent or emailed ?
Charz - 13-Apr-18 @ 3:53 PM
Mel - Your Question:
I booked with teletext and the price shown said 275 for accommodation and flight when I called they said the prices had gone up and the advertised price was no longer available and for 2 it would be 700 I booked reluctantly as the guy was very pushy. But looking again less than 24 hours later they are still advertising at the 275 pp price and another online is selling the exact same deal and they are actualling selling for the 275pp price. I spoke with teletext and they said they dont have a coolig off period and that they sell for a supplier and the price is down to them but refused to gice the suppliers name so where do I stand as I feel very unhappy that I have been ripped off an extra 150 pounds. Surely its illegal to re advertise when they knew yeaterday it was not available at that price.

Our Response:
You can complain about the advert (try Trading Standards or ASA) but you knew the price when you booked and accepted the holiday at that price. There is no cooling off period with travel bookings.
OnlineShoppingRights - 9-Apr-18 @ 2:30 PM
I booked with teletext and the price shown said 275 for accommodation and flight when i called they said the prices had gone up and the advertised price was no longer available and for 2 it would be 700 i booked reluctantly as the guy was very pushy. But looking again less than 24 hours later they are still advertising at the 275 pp price and another online is selling the exact same deal and they are actualling selling for the 275pp price. I spoke with teletext and they said they dont have a coolig off period and that they sell for a supplier and the price is down to them but refused to gice the suppliers name so where do i stand as i feel very unhappy that i have been ripped off an extra 150 pounds. Surely its illegal to re advertise when they knew yeaterday it was not available at that price.
Mel - 7-Apr-18 @ 7:42 PM
Your site is littered with inaccuracies and is incorrect info / advice.For example, you state that the Distance Selling regulations apply to a holiday booking and that consumers are entitled to a 7 working day cooling off period. This is simply completely not the case - you ought to get your facts correct before you champion yourselves as being an expert in online purchasing!
Matt - 3-Apr-18 @ 9:29 AM
Hi, I booked a holiday online with first choice 3 days ago but have just found out that we can’t travel on the dates we’ve booked! I’ve contacted first choice to ask if we can move the holiday to a week later and their response has been that we have to pay 50% of the holiday cost as we are travelling within 62-49 days! Is there any way around this as we’re not looking to cancel we just want to move it by a week?
Sarah - 2-Apr-18 @ 5:30 PM
Hi, I booked a family holiday in January via destination2 - it doesn't leave until 30th June and so far I've only paid deposit of £350+ - I made the mistake of looking at the identical holiday on the same site the other day and it now is +£600 cheaper.If I cancel would I only lose my deposit or would I have other liabilities as even if I lose deposit would still be cheaper to rebook?
MarkDH - 21-Mar-18 @ 4:24 PM
Susie - Your Question:
My son has booked a holiday with Love Holidays but he didn't realise his girlfriend had a double barrelled name. To change the name I think Ryanair wants £110. Is there a cooling off period to cancel? He only booked it 5 days ago

Our Response:
No the cooling off period doesn't apply. Ryanair does offer a 24 hour grace period for minor name changes free of charge...but as it's 5 days ago it might not apply.
OnlineShoppingRights - 14-Mar-18 @ 1:00 PM
Trudy - Your Question:
Have had to cancel holiday that's not due until October. Will we be entitled to what we've paid off so far as the first enquiry looks like we're going to lose that money and only getting £280 refunded from £1800 paid already

Our Response:
You should check the terms and conditions of the holiday booking to find this out. Depending on the reason for the cancellation, your holiday insurance might cover it.
OnlineShoppingRights - 13-Mar-18 @ 12:48 PM
My son has booked a holiday with Love Holidays but he didn't realise his girlfriend had a double barrelled name. To change the name I think Ryanair wants £110. Is there a cooling off period to cancel? He only booked it 5 days ago
Susie - 12-Mar-18 @ 9:23 AM
Have had to cancel holiday that's not due until October. Will we be entitled to what we've paid off so far as the first enquiry looks like we're going to lose that money and only getting £280 refunded from £1800 paid already
Trudy - 10-Mar-18 @ 5:10 PM
Paul - Your Question:
8 weeks ago I booked mine and my partners holiday to the Dominican republic along with 30 of our family and friends. On Saturday I had a phone call from my travel agent informing me they have taken money out of my account towards the minimum deposit payment. I have not authorised or signed anything to allow payment to be taken out of my account. I have contacted my local branch and head office who have both confirmed no monies should have been taken from my account. Where do I now stand with this as all confidence has now been lost with our travel agent. Have they broken the law or our agreement by doing this unauthorised action and admitting responsibility?

Our Response:
You must have given your account details at some point. Check the forms etc that you completed at the time of booking to make sure you haven't missed something. Were you not expecting to have to pay anything yet? Sorry it's not at clear from your post.
OnlineShoppingRights - 7-Feb-18 @ 2:35 PM
8 weeks ago I booked mine and my partners holiday to the Dominican republic along with 30 of our family and friends. On Saturday I had a phone call from my travel agent informing me they have taken money out of my account towards the minimum deposit payment. I have not authorised or signed anything to allow payment to be taken out of my account. I have contacted my local branch and head office who have both confirmed no monies should have been taken from my account. Where do I now stand with this as all confidence has now been lost with our travel agent. Have they broken the law or our agreement by doing this unauthorised action and admitting responsibility?
Paul - 6-Feb-18 @ 6:41 PM
Tom - Your Question:
Hi,We have booked a ski holiday through through an online broker, travelling in 2 months time. We have booked additional extras such as ski hire, but now noticed that we can book the same locally in resort for a fraction of the price. What recourse do we have in terms of getting our money back and booking the extras elsewhere?ThanksTom

Our Response:
If you've already committed to buying these extras, there's nothing you can do, simply because you find them cheaper elsewhere (unless the broker offers a price match, or has claimed booking through them is a cheaper way to do this). Always do your researchbefore purchasing, rather than after.
OnlineShoppingRights - 31-Jan-18 @ 10:09 AM
Hi, We have booked a ski holiday through through an online broker, travelling in 2 months time. We have booked additional extras such as ski hire, but now noticed that we can book the same locally in resort for a fraction of the price. What recourse do we have in terms of getting our money back and booking the extras elsewhere? Thanks Tom
Tom - 29-Jan-18 @ 6:35 PM
joano - Your Question:
HiI put a deposit down last saturday of 150 on a large holiday cottage. The booking was made directly with the cottage owner found on an owners holiday cottage website. A couple of days later I rang to check that at least one of the bedrooms was on the ground floor for disabled parents who cant use stairs. I had previosly assumed this was the case as the website pictures were not clear - silly to overlook this essential requirement I know, but I had rang so many cottages trying to get an available cottage, that I had slightly confused it with a different cottage. I apologised to the owner and explained the situation, he asked for my bank details and I assumed he was going to make some sort of refund. A week later Ive still not received one. I dont mind paying some admin costs incurred but just wondered if there were grounds to try and retrieve part of the deposit or just put it down to experience.

Our Response:
You don't really have grounds to retrieve your deposit. You're relying on the owner's kind heartedness really.
OnlineShoppingRights - 16-Jan-18 @ 10:55 AM
Hi I put a deposit down last saturday of 150 on a large holiday cottage. The booking was made directly with the cottage owner found onan owners holiday cottage website. A couple of days later I rang to check that at least one of the bedrooms was on the ground floor for disabled parents who cant use stairs. I had previosly assumed this was the case as the website pictures were not clear - silly to overlook this essential requirement I know, but I had rang so many cottages trying to get an available cottage, that i had slightly confused it with a different cottage. I apologised to the owner and explained the situation, he asked for my bank details and i assumed he was going to make some sort of refund. A week later Ive still not received one. I dont mind paying some admin costs incurred but just wondered if there were grounds to try and retrieve part of the deposit or just put it down to experience.
joano - 13-Jan-18 @ 12:14 PM
Georgia - Your Question:
Hi, I made a booking via a booking website which clearly stated a free cancellation policy. I booked the hotel thinking that the full payment would be charged on arrival as it said book now pay later, but the next morning I had found that the full £180 had come out of my account. I rang the hotel directly and they assured me to cancel my booking through the website as I would be covered to receive the full amount. During this phone call the manager asked me if I still wanted the booking, just not to pay the full amount today, just pay half which would be £90, I then responded to this by saying I needed to check with the other guests occompioning me and if that was the case I would call back the following day and make a payment over the phone. So I never gave this hotel any bank details over the phone. 4 days has passed and I’ve checked my bank to find the hotel has only refunded me half the price, and kept £90 for themselves. So again, I called and said no this isn’t what I agreed I said I would call back to put down £90 directly once I had spoken to the other people joining me. He then went on to tell me he had done me a favour by saving the room, and wanted to give me a few weeks to re consider, which again I said I 100% did not want this booking and want to know why he has taken it upon himself to keep £90. I did not sign anything to agree this, it’s a simple misunderstanding between myself and him. I’ve rang my bank and the booking website, both have basically told me it’s down to the hotel discretion. Please any advice would be great as I will definitely not be visiting this hotel but very very upset as I’ve lost £90.

Our Response:
Without seeing the terms and conditions we can't really comment. Did you save a screenshot of the terms (noting the free cancellation clause) when you booked? Many online booking sites change the details from day to day (or say that the hotels can log in and do the same). Usually the hotels are understandingin these cases but clearly you have been unlucky.
OnlineShoppingRights - 9-Jan-18 @ 3:18 PM
Hi, I made a booking via a booking website which clearly stated a free cancellation policy. I booked the hotel thinking that the full payment would be charged on arrival as it said book now pay later, but the next morning I had found that the full £180 had come out of my account. I rang the hotel directly and they assured me to cancel my booking through the website as I would be covered to receive the full amount. During this phone call the manager asked me if I still wanted the booking, just not to pay the full amount today, just pay half which would be £90, I then responded to this by saying I needed to check with the other guests occompioning me and if that was the case I would call back the following day and make a payment over the phone. So I never gave this hotel any bank details over the phone. 4 days has passed and I’ve checked my bank to find the hotel has only refunded me half the price, and kept £90 for themselves. So again, I called and said no this isn’t what I agreed I said I would call back to put down £90 directly once I had spoken to the other people joining me. He then went on to tell me he had done me a favour by saving the room, and wanted to give me a few weeks to re consider, which again I said I 100% did not want this booking and want to know why he has taken it upon himself to keep £90. I did not sign anything to agree this, it’s a simple misunderstanding between myself and him. I’ve rang my bank and the booking website, both have basically told me it’s down to the hotel discretion. Please any advice would be great as I will definitely not be visiting this hotel but very very upset as I’ve lost £90.
Georgia - 8-Jan-18 @ 6:36 PM
Hello I'm a Wheelchair user. We booked a holiday online, used the booking sites filter system to find 12 wheelchair accessible apartments. I hose the one that said it was the largest and 'entirely wheelchair accessible throughout' When we got there, I couldn't get in the building for a large step, the flat was tiny and I couldn't get my Wheelchair Into the bedroom or bathroom as the doors were too small.It was late at night so the woman said she'd call her boss and someone would sort it out the next day and they'd sort out a ramp at the door. No-one came. I found the same woman three days later. She thought they'd moved us but no-one had done anything. I lost the middle of the five days to pain because of how much I had to walk in the flat. I said we were going to ask for a refund. I contacted the booking website when we got back. First Lady was apologetic and said they'd get back to me, they did by saying they'd take the misinformation off their site, I said that wasn't good enough if anyone had booked a holiday where they couldn't get into the flat, bathroom or bedroom they'd expect a refund. They've now offered me 25euros as an apology where the apartment cost me nearly 700 euros for six nights. What are my rights?I have video evidence and a photograph of it saying 'entirely Wheelchair accessible' Thanks for your help!
Chez - 18-Dec-17 @ 10:20 AM
CLIA - Your Question:
I booked a weekend break in a holiday cottage last Thursday (commence date 1st February) and paid a deposit of £490.00. I have tried to cancel today and they say I will lose my deposit. They say all cancellations should be placed within 24 hours and that I do not have a 7 day cooling off period. I have only received the booking confirmation today with today's date on 5th December. I thought distance selling regulations applied to holidays?How do I stand? I paid via credit card - Should I just cancel my credit card payment?They say that I will be liable for the full amount should I do thisPlease helpThank youLian

Our Response:
No unfortunately travel/holidays/events etc are not covered by the regulations. Check the company's terms and conditions, it's likely you will lose your deposit.
OnlineShoppingRights - 6-Dec-17 @ 10:31 AM
I booked a weekend break in a holiday cottage last Thursday (commence date 1st February) and paid a deposit of £490.00. I have tried to cancel today and they say I will lose my deposit. They say all cancellations should be placed within 24 hours and that I do not have a 7 day cooling off period.I have only received the booking confirmation today with today's date on 5th December. I thought distance selling regulations applied to holidays? How do I stand? I paid via credit card - Should I just cancel my credit card payment? They say that I will be liable for the full amount should i do this Please help Thank you Lian
CLIA - 5-Dec-17 @ 12:24 PM
we booked via teletext holidays and were told payment from card had not been authorised and they needed my passport to confirm, I was concerned and contacted my back who said not to. when the booking was eventually sorted they informed us the hotel had increased by a further £200 , I said I wasn't prepared to pay it and they then informed me that I had paid for the flights! thus flights to Cyprus but no hotel, I have tried customer care but am getting no where! who agrees to a holiday without accommodation? any advice would be helpful
aidso - 9-Nov-17 @ 10:57 AM
Carl83 - Your Question:
I booked a villa a few months ago but called to speak to customersl services first as I had a few questions.The flights we needed were not available so I called and asked if we needed to change the villa date by a day either side would this be ok if thw dates are available. I was advised to book the villa as it is likely to get booked because of high season and when the flights are released to call and see if the dates are available. I booked the villa.Yesyerday the flights were released so I called the company again to ask is it still possible to change and was told again yes this is fine, send us a email as we need it in writing.I sent the email to be shocked that the reply was we have to pay 200 Admin fee as per terms and conditions. I struggle with slight dyslexia so that's why I called customer services to ask the question and was not told ever that we could make the changes but please be aware of our terms and conditions.Where do I stand?

Our Response:
You would have to take this up with company - it is usual to check terms and conditions before making any changes but if you struggle with dyslexia and told them this at the time, you may be able to claim a refund of the admin cost.
OnlineShoppingRights - 25-Sep-17 @ 1:58 PM
I booked a villa a few months ago but called to speak to customersl services first as I had a few questions. The flights we needed were not available so I called and asked if we needed to change the villa date by a day either side would this be ok if thw dates are available. I was advised to book the villa as it is likely to get booked because of high season and when the flights are released to call and see if the dates are available. I booked the villa. Yesyerday the flights were released so I called the company again to ask is it still possible to change and was told again yes this is fine, send us a email as we need it in writing. I sent the email to be shocked that the reply was we have to pay 200 Admin fee as per terms and conditions. I struggle with slight dyslexia so that's why I called customer services to ask the question and was not told ever that we could make the changes but please be aware of our terms and conditions. Where do I stand?
Carl83 - 22-Sep-17 @ 5:10 PM
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