Families looking to escape the winter weather are today warned of the dangers of using hotel comparison sites.
The websites claim to work with thousands of partners across the world to guarantee the best prices for your budget. But all too often travellers using the platforms are running into problems.
Some 7 per cent of travellers who used holiday booking websites last year suffered problems, according to campaign group Which? And consumer rights website Resolver received more than 4,000 complaints last year.
Hotel comparison sites claim to work with partners across the world to guarantee the best prices. But all too often travellers using the platforms are running into problems
HOTEL HAD GONE OUT OF BUSINESS
Tim Porter, 65, and Deborah Jefferies, 53, used Expedia to book a one-night stay at the George & Dragon Hotel, East Harling, Norfolk, in June 2018.
Nick, Tim’s son, was racing a Volkswagen Golf GTI at Snetterton Circuit, Norfolk, and Tim is his chief mechanic.
But when the family, from Dorset, arrived after a five-hour drive at 10pm, the hotel was closed and there was a ‘to lease’ sign up.
Deborah, a hairdresser, says: ‘I was looking forward to a nice glass of wine. Instead, we had no idea where we were going to stay.’
When they went to the pub next door they were told this had happened repeatedly since the hotel had shut in February — a wedding party had even turned up once.
And at the time, there were multiple comments on the Expedia website from other guests who had turned up to find the hotel closed dating as far back as March.
In the end, they had to pay £75 for a tiny single room at another B&B. ‘It was better than sleeping in the car,’ Deborah adds.
The couple had to wrangle over a refund for weeks. Deborah was left on hold and promised call backs that never came.
Expedia says: ‘On this occasion, the partner had not informed Expedia of the hotel closure, so we were unable to inform the customer ahead of the booking.
‘We have since refunded the full booking value and provided a goodwill gesture, too.’
Hotel horrors: Some 7 per cent of travellers who used holiday booking websites last year suffered problems, according to campaign group Which?
HEN-DO HELD IN ‘A PRISON CELL’
Bride-to-be Becky Davies and her friends were expecting a spacious apartment in Benidorm for her hen-do last September.
But when they arrived, it was cramped and dark with a strong smell of sewage.
She says: ‘We knew it was not going to be luxury, but it was like a prison cell.’
The group of seven paid €686 (£578) for three nights on Booking.com for the apartment that included a lounge area and flatscreen TV. But when they arrived these amenities were missing.
One member of the bridal party called Booking.com which offered to speak to the hotel, to try for compensation, and suggested the rest of the group do the same.
Becky says: ‘We had already tried and staff did not know how to deal with our complaint. They told us some of their rooms do have the advertised amenities.’
At 5pm on their final night, the hotel offered Becky’s group three hours of all-inclusive food and drinks. But they declined.
What you should do
If your accommodation is not as described, complain to the owner or manager immediately. This will give them an opportunity to fix the matter and strengthens your case.
Take photographs and make notes, such as conversations had with staff and phone calls. Keep hold of your receipts.
Complain to the hotel or booking site in writing with copies of the evidence.
If you are still not happy, then complain to the relevant trade body.
You cannot rely on Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for a refund if you paid on a credit card. Protection may not apply when booking through intermediary websites.
When Becky got home to Bristol, she says Booking.com became dismissive and unhelpful.
She says: ‘It told me it could not do anything if the hotel does not respond, which is ridiculous. All Booking.com needed to do was offer to investigate the hotel and warn it to advertise accurately.’
A refund of €50 (£42), equal to €2 (£1.67) a night each, was offered.
Following Money Mail’s intervention it increased the amount to €343 (£289), and agreed to work with the property to make sure the listing details were accurate.