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

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 22 Sep 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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[Add a Comment]
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
Nimal - Your Question:
Hi. On 9th September I booked 2 flights which cost me £2571. Today I realised I needed to change the return date, they asked me for around £850 to change the dates (£200 airlines change fee + £50 Admin fee + £176 fare and tax difference per person) or I could cancel both for £750. I feel both of these options are very extream as I only booked this 10 days ago and the flight is 3 months away. Is there anyway around this? Either getting a full refund or changing the dates for a lot less money?

Our Response:
Unfortunately not the terms and conditions will have been available when you made your booking.
OnlineShoppingRights - 20-Sep-17 @ 1:58 PM
Hi. On 9th September I booked 2 flights which cost me £2571. Today I realised I needed to change the return date, they asked me for around £850 to change the dates (£200 airlines change fee + £50 Admin fee + £176 fare and tax difference per person) or I could cancel both for £750. I feel both of these options are very extream as I only booked this 10 days ago and the flight is 3 months away. Is there anyway around this? Either getting a full refund or changing the dates for a lot less money?
Nimal - 19-Sep-17 @ 9:55 PM
Maz - Your Question:
I've booked (June 2017) 3 weeks in Hurghada for Feb 2018 with Holiday Gems @ Sunrise Holidays adults only. I found out a couple of days later that there are major pool renovations happening for the duration of our stay and the only pool will be closed.I contacted HG who denied this was the case, after several emails, endless telephone calls over A four plus week period they have accepted I'm correct. I have asked to cancel as thee are no other Adult Only Hotels in my price range. They say I will loose money for flights if I cancel. is there anything I can do?

Our Response:
Was the holiday purchased as a whole package? If so the package travel regulations apply and the company is breach of conditions as the swimming pool described is not in fact in use - you should therefore be able to withdraw from the contract without penalty.
OnlineShoppingRights - 11-Sep-17 @ 2:33 PM
I've booked (June 2017) 3 weeks in Hurghada for Feb 2018 with Holiday Gems @ Sunrise Holidays adults only. I found out a couple of days later that there are major pool renovations happening for the duration of our stay and the only pool will be closed.I contacted HG who denied this was the case, after several emails, endless telephone calls over A four plus week period they have accepted I'm correct. I have asked to cancel as thee are no other Adult Only Hotels in my price range. They say I will loose money for flights if I cancel... is there anything I can do?
Maz - 10-Sep-17 @ 5:25 PM
Sali - Your Question:
This morning my daughter paid £150 to a holiday Lettings company, for a booking for next year. However, she needed to cancel it 4 hours later because not everyone could make the dates. She was told the money had already been transferred to the owner and a refund isn't possible. Please can you advise whether there is a cooling off period? It was all done online. Thank you.

Our Response:
Check the terms and conditions on their website first of all. In general, the cooling off period referred to in UK consumer rights legislation, excludes travel/accommodation bookings.
OnlineShoppingRights - 21-Aug-17 @ 12:36 PM
Brynner - Your Question:
I have purchased a holiday from teletext holidays website that I am looking forward too and the hotel looks amazing and I'm hopeful that it will be a great holiday but I am concerned by what I feel is blatant false advertising and hard selling tactics by teletext in the purchase of this holiday. I have been looking on websites for a few months and saw the holiday I eventually booked many months ago advertised at £487 per person for 10 days all inclusive the price has fluctuated over the months between £475 and £500 and I saved up for it. When I booked it the price online was£497 pp so I was surprised when I was informed that it would actually cost £645 per person which I questioned and was told that there is a difference between the advertised prices and live prices and due to six holidays being booked at that hotel on that day and it only being three weeks away £645 pp was now the lowest price available and there was only a couple of rooms left so I will need to book quickly or lose the holiday. I have been showing my friends and family the holiday I am going on since I booked and I noticed that the advertised price had changed to £495 pp surely this constitutes false advertising as that price is not available I am currently trying to get an answer from teletext customer services but would like to know if this seems lawful to you

Our Response:
There have been several investigations into misleading holiday promotions that have been investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority and in general holiday companies are asked to prove that a percentage of the holidays advertised at a specific price are indeed available at the price. Here is some advice on the ASA website
OnlineShoppingRights - 18-Aug-17 @ 2:16 PM
This morning my daughter paid £150 to a holiday Lettings company, for a booking for next year. However, she needed to cancel it 4 hours later because not everyone could make the dates. She was told the money had already been transferred to the owner and a refund isn't possible. Please can you advise whether there is a cooling off period? It was all done online. Thank you.
Sali - 17-Aug-17 @ 3:18 PM
I have purchased a holiday from teletext holidays website that I am looking forward too and the hotel looks amazing and I'm hopeful that it will be a great holiday but I am concerned by what I feel is blatant false advertising and hard selling tactics by teletext in the purchase of this holiday.I have been looking on websites for a few months and saw the holiday I eventually booked many months ago advertised at £487 per person for 10 days all inclusive the price has fluctuated over the months between £475 and £500 and I saved up for it.When I booked it the price online was£497 pp so I was surprised when I was informed that it would actually cost £645 per person which I questioned and was told that there is a difference between the advertised prices and live prices and due to six holidays being booked at that hotel on that day and it only being three weeks away £645 pp was now the lowest price available and there was only a couple of rooms left so I will need to book quickly or lose the holiday.I have been showing my friends and family the holiday I am going on since I booked and I noticed that the advertised price had changed to £495 pp surely this constitutes false advertising as that price is not available I am currently trying to get an answer from teletext customer services but would like to know if this seems lawful to you
Brynner - 16-Aug-17 @ 10:37 PM
alison - Your Question:
My Daughter has booked a holiday, She is going to pay when she gets there, Thing is now she may not beable to go and would have to cancel, the holiday is in 6 days time. Would she have to pay a cancellation fee

Our Response:
This depends on the holiday company's booking terms and conditions.
OnlineShoppingRights - 31-Jul-17 @ 12:25 PM
Maryellen - Your Question:
Hi, my daughter bod a holiday with jet2 yesterday leaving in 6th November however when she got home discovered that her partners holidays are the previous week. They phoned first thing this morning to ask if the could change the date but were told no and they will forfeit their deposit.I have since read that there is a distance selling clause and that also there should be a7 day cooling off period, I'd appreciate any advice NO T

Our Response:
Please see our response to your original question which we've already answered below. Your only hope is that the holiday company will allow you to change to an alternative holiday for a fee.
OnlineShoppingRights - 31-Jul-17 @ 12:24 PM
My Daughter has booked a holiday, She is going to pay when she gets there, Thing is now she may not beable to go and would have to cancel, the holiday is in 6 days time. Would she have to pay a cancellation fee
alison - 31-Jul-17 @ 11:42 AM
Maryellen - Your Question:
Hi, my daughter biked a holiday with jet2 yesterday leaving in 6th November however when she got home discovered that her partners holidays are the previous week. They phoned first thing this morning to ask if the could change the date but were told no and they will forfeit their deposit.I have since read that there is a distance selling clause and that also there should be a7 day cooling off period, I'd appreciate any advice NO T

Our Response:
No unfortunately this does not apply to holiday bookings/travel arrangements etc
OnlineShoppingRights - 28-Jul-17 @ 1:49 PM
Hi, my daughter bod a holiday with jet2 yesterday leaving in 6th November however when she got home discovered that her partners holidays are the previous week. They phoned first thing this morning to ask if the could change the date but were told no and they will forfeit their deposit....I have since read that there is a distance selling clause and that also there should be a7 day cooling off period, I'd appreciate any advice NO T
Maryellen - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:10 PM
Hi, my daughter biked a holiday with jet2 yesterday leaving in 6th November however when she got home discovered that her partners holidays are the previous week. They phoned first thing this morning to ask if the could change the date but were told no and they will forfeit their deposit....I have since read that there is a distance selling clause and that also there should be a7 day cooling off period, I'd appreciate any advice NO T
Maryellen - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:08 PM
Jac - Your Question:
HiI booked a trip last night and paid deposit for myself and 3 others. I added meals which were advertised at £25pp. Today the holiday company said it was a mistake on their website and it should be £50pp. They want the additional £25 each. Can they legally charge for this after booking was confirmed?

Our Response:
They must give a you a refund if you do not want to pay the extra amount. If the meal price was part of what attracted you to the entire holiday and you feel you were misled, you could ask for a refund of the total amount you have paid.
OnlineShoppingRights - 25-Jul-17 @ 12:00 PM
Hi I booked a trip last night and paid deposit for myself and 3 others. I added meals which were advertised at £25pp. Today the holiday company said it was a mistake on their website and it should be £50pp. They want the additional £25 each. Can they legally charge for this after booking was confirmed?
Jac - 18-Jul-17 @ 2:21 PM
hi Ive booked a holiday through teletext for Corfu. I asked for a suitable location other than Sidari as we have been there before. I was recommended Kavos, unfortunately, I do not think this area would suit as a location for a family . I wish to change the location. Can anyone tell me if this is possible with huge charges occurring.
ellie - 7-Jul-17 @ 11:19 PM
hi I have booked a holiday through teletext online.I asked for somewhere suitable for a family of 4 in Corfu. I was offered Sidari. but having been there before I suggested south of the island. Kavos was recommended to me. However this area I have found is area would not be one to choose for a family holiday. I wish to change my location to somewhere else in Corfu. can anyone advise me if this is possible without high charges being inccued.
ellie - 7-Jul-17 @ 11:12 PM
I've just booked a holiday via Thomas Cook for a package holiday in Cyprus in mid August. I booked online using a credit card. Would the company cancellation policy still apply as I booked online? Thanks in advance.
Ellejay - 7-Jul-17 @ 7:04 AM
Hi I booked a teletext holiday , few days before leaving was told the accommodation wasn't available and tried to sort it for 3 days now. They aren't calling me back 3 people haven't plus keep transferring me to no answer. An arrogant supervisor laughed and said I have to take one of two offers or forget it and not entitled to refund of my flights and transfers if I refuse. The hotels are much worse than mine and I even offered to pay more but they don't return my calls to allow me to book or let me when I call them as they always say they need another to do it. I'm travelling in 2 days. So upset. I said I'm calling Abta the supervisor said threaten him all I like they're not with Abta. I found out online afterwards that they are.
Jayzee - 3-Jul-17 @ 6:14 PM
Kellie - Your Question:
My husband booked a holiday today for 5 people travelling 15th July.He later got a call to say no flights available for 5 people on 15th, we would need to travel on 16th, reducing our holiday from 10 days to 9 days. As these flights were more expensive they will honour the holiday at original price agreed. I called back to say this was unacceptable as we are now paying same price but losing a whole day of our holiday. I advised we would rather cancel but was told this was not possible! Surely this can't be right?!?!

Our Response:
If the holiday you purchased was not available on the terms you were led to believe at the time of booking you should be offered a full refund, unless you were advised at the time that flights had to be confirmed.
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Jul-17 @ 11:24 AM
My husband booked a holiday today for 5 people travelling 15th July. He later got a call to say no flights available for 5 people on 15th, we would need to travel on 16th, reducing our holiday from 10 days to 9 days. As these flights were more expensive they will honour the holiday at original price agreed. I called back to say this was unacceptable as we are now paying same price but losing a whole day of our holiday. I advised we would rather cancel but was told this was not possible! Surely this can't be right?!?!
Kellie - 30-Jun-17 @ 10:55 PM
sanya52 - Your Question:
HI, I booked a package holidy to dubai [hotel, flight and half board] in March for a holiday in july via travel company destinologyNow suddenly the price for the same holiday has slashed down by 300£ or so last weekI 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 priceCould you kindly educate me with regards to the change in price of a holiday?Many Thanks

Our Response:
Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this, it's just bad luck.
OnlineShoppingRights - 30-Jun-17 @ 2:40 PM
Basdger - Your Question:
I booked a weeks Yoga retreat in Spain with my local Yoga school commencing Oct. However due to circumstances beyond my control I have had to cancel the trip 5 months prior to the Oct date. The Yoga school I booked it with has accepted my cancellation but insist that they keep 33% of the cost as a non refundable deposit and they gave me a long winded explanation of how their business will be at financial risk if they gave a full refund. Also they stated on their original receipt email when I paid for the trip that the away courses are non refundable. Looking at my Consumer rights that statement appears to me as being ilegal as they have stated that they don't give refunds? I am of course pleased to receive the refund but am losing £250. I know my place will be taken up quickly as it is the last one now available out of 20 places. Surely when the place is fully paid for by the replacement person the School should then refund this so called no refundable deposit as they will be £500 better off including the new persons full payment?

Our Response:
The company is not obliged to refund you - if that's their policy then you have to accept it unfortunately.
OnlineShoppingRights - 30-Jun-17 @ 1:59 PM
I booked a weeks Yoga retreat in Spain with my local Yoga school commencing Oct. However due to circumstances beyond my control I have had to cancel the trip 5 months prior to the Oct date. The Yoga school I booked it with has accepted my cancellation but insist that they keep 33% of the cost as a non refundable deposit and they gave me a long winded explanation of how their business will be at financial risk if they gave a full refund. Also they stated on their original receipt email when I paid for the trip that the away courses are non refundable. Looking at my Consumer rights that statement appears to me as being ilegal as they have stated that they don't give refunds? I am of course pleased to receive the refund but am losing £250. I know my place will be taken up quickly as it is the last one now available out of 20 places. Surely when the place is fully paid for by the replacement person the School should then refund this so called no refundable deposit as they will be £500 better off including the new persons full payment?
Basdger - 29-Jun-17 @ 10:33 PM
MC - Your Question:
My sister booked a holiday online for our parents as a surprise for our Stepdads 70th Birthday. The holiday provider emailed a confirmation with a link to a 3* star Hotel with the same name in Ischia Italy.On contacting them & explaining they originally stated we would have to pay a £75.00 cost to change the holiday or would lose the cost of the flights and a cancellation fee. They have since updated the Website. However we have lots of screenshots which shows they made an error. Since contacting them again with all the details and screenshots we have, they have said that they did make a mistake with the pictures and the TripAdvisor link, but the Hotel was correct & they can refund the Hotel element but not the flights and we can book the same Hotel on another site or we can we can look for an alternative in Sorrento that is available & they will additionallly be able to contribute to the new hotel, but can't provide a figure.As they have admitted they were wrong, do they have to amend the Hotel to a like for like Hotel to what we believed we were booking?

Our Response:
Unfortunately since they have offered you a refund, the choice is yours as to whether you are willing to pay more for an alternative hotel.
OnlineShoppingRights - 29-Jun-17 @ 12:31 PM
NORTH70 - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
When you order online a contract is complete when a retailer accepts an order, but, acceptance does not necessarily occur when a confirmation email is sent. Some retailers reserve the right to cancel an order up to the point of delivery, so check the terms and conditions.
OnlineShoppingRights - 28-Jun-17 @ 2:47 PM
My sister booked a holiday online for our parents as a surprise for our Stepdads 70th Birthday. The holiday provider emailed a confirmation with a link to a 3* star Hotel with the same name in Ischia Italy. On contacting them & explaining they originally stated we would have to pay a £75.00 cost to change the holiday or would lose the cost of the flights and a cancellation fee.They have since updated the Website.However we have lots of screenshots which shows they made an error.Since contacting them again with all the details and screenshots we have, they have said that they did make a mistake with the pictures and the TripAdvisor link, but the Hotel was correct & they can refund the Hotel element but not the flights and we can book the same Hotel on another site or we can we can look for an alternative in Sorrento that is available & they will additionallly be able to contribute to the new hotel, but can't provide a figure. As they have admitted they were wrong, do they have to amend the Hotel to a like for like Hotel to what we believed we were booking?
MC - 28-Jun-17 @ 1:23 PM
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