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.
A spokesman says: ‘We always endeavour to make sure that the information properties list on our platform, including room sizes and facilities, are clear and accurate.
‘If a customer shows up to a property and it does not meet their expectations, our customer service team are on hand 24/7.
‘In the very rare instance that a property might be unresponsive, we step in and try to make things right for the customer.’
HOUNDED FOR MORE MONEY
Upon arrival at his accommodation in Marrakech, Morocco, Ahmed Khalef and his friend were both refused entry to the apartment they had booked until they paid another €250 (£212).
A man who appeared to be in charge had told them he could not find their reservation.
Ahmed, 58, called Lastminute.com and they confirmed his reservation and offered to speak to the hotel but he was left on hold.
Another man showed the pair to a dirty apartment with no wi-fi that had been advertised as ‘deluxe’. He then tried to make them pay again by claiming the booking had been cancelled.
Ahmed again refused. The man left the apartment but returned after midnight chasing the money. He continued to pester Ahmed every day of his week’s stay.
Ahmed says: ‘It was a nightmare. And Lastminute did nothing.’ He has since been offered £25 compensation and Lastminute says it is still investigating.
Complain: 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
HILTON TOOK DOUBLE PAYMENT
Sonia Lawrence paid for a holiday to New York a year in advance using Lastminute.com.
The flights and four nights in the Hilton Hotel cost a total of £3,500 for seven people.
But when the group arrived at the hotel last month, the manager asked if they had already paid for the rooms as he could not see any money against their account.
He said he would sort out the problem, but asked two of the group to leave their credit card details for security.
Sonia, 40, believed everything was resolved when they checked out, but when the two families returned home, they discovered the hotel had charged £634 on both cards because Lastminute had not passed on their payment.
The mother-of-two says the only time she received a response was when she contacted Lastminute on Facebook. It told her it would take 28 days to ‘investigate’.
Following Money Mail’s intervention Sonia and her friend were both refunded. Lastminute refused to explain why the hotel was not paid.
If your hotel does not meet expectations, take photographs and make notes, such as conversations had with staff and phone calls and keep hold of your receipts
SKIERS LEFT IN THE DARK
A Family’s ski trip to the Italian Alps became a disaster when the apartment electricity failed every night of their week-long stay and no one was on hand to help.
Heather Dennis and her family, including her two daughters, sat in the dark for two hours while trying to contact Booking.com, which she had paid £1,000 for the accommodation.
But she was cut off after being on hold for ten minutes. She also unsuccessfully tried to contact the property manager.
Heather, 35, says this was one of many problems they experienced. When they tried to contact the apartment management company to find out information before arrival they received no reply.
While check-in was after 3pm they were not met and given the keys until three hours later.
The fridge was also filthy and the dishwasher was already full.
They were also charged an ‘early check-out fee’ of €25 (£20) which they had not been told about.
Booking.com offered a £75 refund but Heather says they did not get what they were promised.
Booking.com says: ‘Because of their experience at this property, we have refunded an initial amount as a gesture of goodwill and have reached out to the customer to see how we can support further. We have also suspended the partner in question until they have addressed the concerns.’