If you’ve bought a genuine package holiday and you find on travelling that the package holiday is different to the one advertised in the brochure description, you have rights under the Package Travel Regulation (PTR) 1992 entitling you to compensation.
Package holiday rights.
If your holiday is not as described, you have the right to complain. Under the Package Travel Regulations (PTR) you have the right to:
- Get the holiday that was described to you and at the agreed price,
- Be given details about the holiday that are factually correct and not misleading,
- Be provided with accommodation and a resort that is clean and safe.
If the package holiday turns out not to be what you expected, you also have certain legal rights:
- If your holiday is not as described to you, the holiday company must offer a suitable alternative. If it can’t provide anything close to what you paid for, it should offer to fly you home.
Under UK common law and PTR, you have a right to make a claim for:
- ‘Loss of value’ (the difference in value between what you booked and what you got),
- Out-of-pocket expenses,
- Loss of enjoyment, inconvenience, or disappointment.
It’s important to remember that you have a duty to give your holiday company a chance to put right any problems that occur. Most companies will have a complaints policy in their terms and conditions, so make sure you read these and follow the appropriate steps.
How to claim if you’re unhappy with your package holiday.
Complaining to the holiday provider.
Your first port of call in claiming for an unsatisfactory package holiday should always be via the holiday provider. They should be given the opportunity to put right any problems that occur, and you, as a holiday maker have a duty to give them a chance to do so.
Most companies will have a complaints policy in their terms and conditions, so make sure you read these and follow the appropriate steps. If the problem can’t be solved while you’re on your holiday, you can make a formal complaint to the company when you get home.
Complaining to a trade association.
If you can’t resolve the problem with the company directly, you should contact the company’s trade association. Many package holiday companies are members of either ABTA or Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO).
Claiming against an ABTA company.
If your company is a member of ABTA, (The Travel Association) they will be bound by the Association’s code of conduct. This requires certain standards of service, including promptly paying any applicable refunds; ABTA members who break the code can be fined.
To make a complaint to ABTA, you must first complain directly to the company, which should send you a full response within 28 days. If they don’t, or you’re not satisfied with the reply, you can then lodge the complaint with ABTA. You can now do this online via ABTA’s Complaints Hub. However, you should be aware that the company you complain about will be able to view your complaint in full via the hub.
If you can’t reach a settlement, ABTA also offers an arbitration service to cover alleged breaches of contract and negligence, and which makes legally binding decisions.
Claiming against an AITO company.
The Association of Independent Tour Operators also runs an arbitration service, run by a third party company, Dispute Settlement Services. Applications to the service must normally be made within nine months of the return date of the holiday.
A mediator appointed by the company will rule on each case and can require an AITO member to make a payment of up to £2,500 per person, or £10,000 per booking.
The operator is required to make a payment to the customer within 14 days of the ruling. Taking a claim to the service costs £110.
Using the Small Claims court.
Before resorting to using the Small Claims Court you should ideally try to use all other means of dispute resolution first. If you decide to pursue your claim through the Court you do not need the services of a solicitor, as the process is informal.
However, it can take several months for the complaint to be resolved and there is no guarantee that you automatically get back the money you’re owed. You can claim up to £10,000 in England and Wales, and up to £3,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the most you’ll have to pay as a fee for bringing the case is £485.