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

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 26 Feb 2024 | 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 purchased 10 tickets to a comedy club,booked a restaurant near the venue and transport.a few days prior to the event they changed the venue.unfortunately too late to change restaurant and transport.This ment walking 35 min to the new venue.we arrived 10 minutes late of the show start.However the venues website states you can be seated at the 1st break in the show,which happened 10 minutes of our arrival.The venus then stated they had no seats remaining.They have refused a refund to visit the venue againbut have offered credit.1) a credit for 10 tickets isn't helping everyone as we dont all live in the arar of the venue.2)I very much doubt I would want to book there again. can I get a full £ refund?
Kez - 26-Feb-24 @ 2:45 PM
My wife booked a love holiday package deal to New York in December to see the Christmas lights, the same day, she noticed that the lights would not be on while we were there so she messaged love holidays the same day she booked it to change the dates. Firstly they said the hotel was booked up so she could not change it, then they said, it’s fine to change the dates but it’s going to be another £3165 on top of the £2300 we had been quoted. She had paid a deposit on the wrong dates holiday so said to cancel it and keep the deposit only for them to say no, we would have to pay another £900 to cancel as the flights had been booked. They done pretty well considering it was within minutes of her realising she wanted to change. I seriously hope they go out of business as they are conning people and ripping them off. They will not be getting anything off us.
Clarky - 2-Feb-24 @ 7:46 PM
My Wife booked a Love Holiday to Spain for July 2024 for a party off 10 people all together. 8 off the partycan no longer go, But Love Holiday are refusing refund of the £2500 to cover the flights, which bearing in mind they will re sell. Plus they are demanding another £190 to cancel. Also if the 2 first named people can still go They will still charge moremoney than the original price if just 2 people went in the first place. That would be an additional £2000. I hope this company go out of business It is legalised theft.
Minty - 29-Nov-23 @ 6:00 PM
I’ve booked a holiday let in France for a week but cancelled within 24 hours of the booking but there cancellation policy states that I can cancel within 24 hours as long as it not2 less than months . Is there anything I can do?
Ste. - 3-Aug-23 @ 1:55 PM
Booked online 10th Nov with Love Holidays.5 days to sol pelicanos hotel in Benidorm. Cost at time of booking £514. Money taken from account 10th nov for low deposit 2 x£25. 2 days later called 12th nov to ask about confirmationEmail. Agent took my details Emailed confirmation on checking note cost now £704. 55mins on call to agent repeatedly said cost can go up. ..nothing she could do now waiting on manager tocall.. cost to cancel .£75 admin full cost of flight and £50 deposit. What are my rights on this occasion
Ripped off - 14-Nov-22 @ 2:43 PM
Booked a virging holiday to barbados 3 days ago jist noticed its a non smoking hotel. Want to change to a different hotel and bring holiday forward 1 week. Virgin said I will loose £350 deposit. Is this not covered under the 7 day rule. I dont want money back just put it towards a different holiday.
H - 27-Jul-22 @ 7:35 PM
Booked a caravan holiday in January this year with park dean paid it in full and paid a £25 cancellation cover it was £545 had to cancel holiday in March due to shielding as I have cancer got my money back less £120 they claimed was a booking fee does anyone know if this is right or have I been ripped off
Ange - 6-Jul-20 @ 10:43 PM
My wife and I have beefed a Holliday with Sykes cottages in the uk. Unfortunately due to the current government restrictions on travel we are unable to go. We have contacted Sykes re a refund but this has been refused and they state we can rebook only the same cottage on a later date with an increase in price. We would like a refund or would be prepared to accept as a last resort a credit note for any property but this has also been refused. Where do we stand, thank you for your assistance F a stone
Frederick - 31-Mar-20 @ 10:05 AM
I booked a 3night break with Shearings for April and paid in full I received an email telling me this was now cancelled because of the corona outbreak I asked for a refund as it was booked for a special occasion to see friendsand I don’t want to book another break they are telling me Ican’t have a refund only a credit which I don’t want
None - 26-Mar-20 @ 3:57 PM
hi all inclusive package hol egypt easy jet. during holiday hotel restaurant closed after 2 days so ate in suster hotel which rsn out of food twice.all inclusive bar ran out of beer for 10 out of 14 days and soft drinks for meals 0ne day.hotel ran out of loo roll for 3 days.one of the 2 pools was derelict.no rep available to ask for help. where do i stand with a refund please .
tu - 15-Mar-20 @ 8:39 PM
Booked holiday through secret escapes for 23 may 20 cost of 3000 put all details in including payment details when it then came up sorry these not dates available . So booked same holiday for 1 may instead then found out that the money had been taken twice and I had both holidays booked for same month. Contacted secret escapes by email more or less straight away but they won’t refund even though it was obvious error on their website
Rachel - 21-Feb-20 @ 6:02 PM
Hi Lucy,. nice article, but totally wrong I'm afraid.According to ABTA (this is a direct quote from the ABTA website) "I want to cancel my recent booking. Is there a cooling off period? No, there isn't a cooling off period. This is because the Distance Selling Regulations (DSR) don’t apply with regards to package travel holidays and other holiday bookings"
Bill - 5-Jan-20 @ 11:53 AM
Booked holiday to Dominican republic same resort of death in la romana... I will loose deposit £500 and % of payment paid. I would like to have a nice holiday to remember and not come back in a box. This info is from ABTA. Not happy as I saved to pay for this holiday for 18month and now I cannot get my whole money back I paid £3000 is a lot of money. WHATCH THIS SPACE !
Maz - 20-Jun-19 @ 1:58 PM
Booked a four day holiday to Benidorm for June 16th 20/19 flight dates are correct but hotel and transfers are for May 16th I've been emailing and at least five very lengthy phone calls only to be told the same thing over and over again that they would send documents over to me by email so frustrated
Shazzie - 17-May-19 @ 3:58 PM
We booked a 5 day coach holiday with Shearings some months ago departing May 27th. At the time of booking the price was £295pp and now it's being advertised as £202pp! I understand they can reduce the price to shift seats but not by this amount surely? I have sent them an email but there response is non commital. Is this fair?
Stokie Bob - 6-May-19 @ 2:31 PM
Booked holiday with TUI on their website. We payed an extra £50 for a superior room. There wasn't a photo available for this room, it was stated has having a third bed, own balcony, garden view. We had a small room with only a double bed, the balcony was joined to the room next door with a dividing wall. We had a pool view, but wanted just a garden view. The room itself was in need of refurbishment, not exactly superior. We queried this room with the hotel reception, and was told it was a superior room. Since we have been back we have been in dispute with TUI to have our £50 refunded, which they refuse to do. Does anyone know how we stand on this?
Dicky70 - 8-Mar-19 @ 1:53 PM
booked a caravan holiday in uk, and paid a low deposit of 100, instead of 300. ive had to cancel 3 months before the holiday. in the terms it says no refund of deposit, so expected to loose 100 i paid. but now received a letter saying i owe them the other 200. do i have to pay this.
flippinmental - 28-Jan-19 @ 5:17 PM
Booked a package holiday to Dominican with first choice on line. Took screen shots of information and flight times as another couple were coming too.when I got my confirmation the flight times home had changed. Phoned and after much discussion they confirmed that the flight i had booked home had been chaned, system error and they will investigate. Surely they should honour the original booking?
Hev - 2-Jan-19 @ 1:12 PM
Ang - Your Question:
Booked a holiday 12/7/18 to Mexico I paid the enhanced deposit of £250 pp instead of the £50pp deal. This was via Barrhead Travel.I emailed last week while in Florida to cancel and the girl was on holiday, I sent an email and head office passed this on to their office.They phoned and left me a message regarding my cancelling and stated I would loose my full £1000. I don't feel this is right as was lets than 14 days later and the full deposit was not due until September. If anything I feel I should only be loosing the mandatory deposit a total of £250.00

Our Response:
Always check the terms and conditions of your booking. Barrhead Travel has the following terms:
Period before departure within which notice of cancellation is receive by us in writing % of total booking price*
More than 84 days Loss of Deposit** (Where a low deposit has been paid at the time of cancellation you will be required to pay the remainder of the full deposit)
84-50 days 30% or deposit if greater
49- 29 days 50%
28 days or less 100%
Depending on your reason for cancelling, your travel insurance might cover this.
The 14 days cooling off period does not apply to holiday bookings.
OnlineShoppingRights - 3-Aug-18 @ 2:25 PM
Booked a holiday 12/7/18 to Mexico I paid the enhanced deposit of £250 pp instead of the £50pp deal.This was via Barrhead Travel. I emailed last week while in Florida to cancel and the girl was on holiday, I sent an email and head office passed this on to their office. They phoned and left me a message regarding my cancelling and stated I would loose my full £1000.I don't feel this is right as was lets than 14 days later and the full deposit was not due until September.If anything I feel I should only be loosing the mandatory deposit a total of £250.00
Ang - 1-Aug-18 @ 3:09 PM
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
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