Written by Elvinas Kukys
Did you buy the service as part of a package holiday?
If an excursion or holiday service was sold as part of the package you bought in the UK it will be covered by the Package Travel Regulations. The regulations mean a package holiday organizer is responsible for all the services you bought as part of your holiday. Your package holiday organizer will have contracts with lots of people to provide the different parts of your holiday package. If you booked things like scuba diving lessons or a boat trip as part of your package, the organizer is responsible even if the service is supplied by another company. This means, if something goes wrong with a holiday service you booked as part of your package you should complain to your holiday organizer. Complain to your holiday rep as soon as you realize there’s a problem – don’t leave it until the end of your holiday to complain.
Is the information in the brochure important?
The information that’s written in a brochure helps you choose your holiday. Brochure information is also a part of your holiday contract. The only time brochure information won’t be part of your contract is if you agreed changes when you booked the holiday. So if your holiday doesn’t match the description in the brochure you can argue that the terms of your contract have been broken. This is called breach of contract. For example, perhaps the brochure said the hotel was a five minute walk from the sea, but actually it took half an hour to get to the beach. If you choose your resort based on its distance from the sea because you have young children, you could argue there has been a breach of contract. If the brochure doesn’t include important information this could also be a breach. For example, the brochure says your hotel is near the beach but doesn’t mention that you have to cross a motorway to reach it. What you can do about breach of contract depends on how the holiday is different from what’s in the brochure.
Can you get money back or compensation?
If your holiday contract has been breached, you may be able to get some money back or claim compensation. If you’re on a package holiday, you have extra protection from the package travel regulations. This means you’re entitled to compensation if your brochure was misleading. However, even if you booked your accommodation independently you can still claim compensation under general consumer law. How much money you can get will depend on how serious the breach of contract is. Holiday contracts are complicated and there are no rules about what counts as a serious breach. A lot will depend on what you said was important when you booked the holiday. For example, when you booked you explained that you chose your holiday from the brochure because of the golf lessons included in the package and this was noted on your booking form. But when you arrived at your resort the golf lessons weren’t available. In this case, you could argue that the golf lessons were a major term of your contract and that you are entitled to money back and compensation.
What happens if your package holiday organiser has to cancel your booking?
If you’ve booked a package holiday you are protected under special regulations. If your package organiser has to cancel your holiday they should offer you:
• an alternative holiday of the same or higher-quality
• an alternative holiday of lower-quality and a refund of the difference in price
• a full refund.
• It’ll be up to you to decide whether you’d like an alternative holiday or you’d prefer to have your money back.
• Check if your holiday is a package.
o Will you be entitled to any compensation?
You won’t be able to claim any compensation if the package organiser cancelled your holiday because:
Not enough people booked your holiday and you were told in writing within the time period given in your contract or holiday brochure
Something outside the organiser’s control happened – for example an earthquake or the outbreak of war.
You won’t automatically be able to claim compensation if the package organiser cancels your holiday. For example, if the organiser offers you an alternative holiday of the same standard within the same resort you’re unlikely to get compensation.
You may still be able to make a convincing claim for compensation if you can show that the particular holiday you booked was important. For example, you may be able to claim compensation if, when you booked the holiday, you made it clear that the particular hotel was your reason for choosing the holiday. Or you may be able to claim compensation if you have specific requirements, for example disability access that could only be met on that particular holiday.
What happens if your package organiser has to cancel your holiday once it’s started?
If your package organisers have to cancel your holiday after you’ve left on holiday, they should:
• provide suitable alternative arrangements
• arrange for you to return to your departure point or other agreed place.
Whether you’ll be able to claim compensation will depend on why the holiday has been cancelled.
• Your holiday company cancels your accommodation booking
As an independent traveller you’re not protected by special regulations. If your holiday company wants to cancel your booking you should check the terms and conditions of your contract. If your holiday company has to cancel your booking they should refund your deposit. If the cancellation is beyond their control they may be able to keep some money to cover their expenses.
It’s unlikely that the holiday company will have to cancel once your holiday has started. However, this is sometimes possible because of something like a fire or because your holiday destination becomes dangerous. If this happens, you may be able to get some of your money back. However, the holiday might not give you a full refund if you’ve had part of your holiday. You may be able to make a claim on your travel insurance.
If you’re not happy about the way the holiday company deals with the cancellation of your booking, you can complain.
Can the organiser increase the price of a package holiday you’ve booked?
Sometimes, package holiday organisers will want to increase the price of your holiday because their costs have gone up. They can only do this if your holiday contract says that the price can go up and explains how the increase will be worked out. Your holiday brochure is part of your contract so the information might be in the brochure.
The organiser can only increase the price of your holiday if there has been a change to:
• the cost of transport – for example fuel, or
• the fees and taxes for services such as landing at an airport, or
• the exchange rates which apply to your holiday.
The organiser must let you know about any increases 30 days before your departure date.