Consumer rights for holidaymakers
It's holiday time again, and we're all getting ready to jet off to sunnier climes for a couple of weeks' well-earned R&R with the kids. Technically, nothing should go wrong, but just as with any situation, holidays are a minefield of potential problems - from delayed or cancelled flights, illness and accidents, or turning up to find only half the hotel has been built. Here's a quick recap on your rights as a consumer, and how to claim compensation for those Mallorca mishaps, Ibiza incidents, and cruise catastrophes.
As with any other product or service, your holiday experience should be as close to the representation made by the provider as possible. So, if they promise sea views from your private balcony, there should be at least a glimpse of the ocean visible somewhere (as famously said by Basil Fawlty), between the land and the sky. You have rights to compensation for specific issues that may end up meaning your holiday was less than advertised, or you came to any physical or emotional harm as a result of events that could have been prevented.
Package holidays give you the greatest degree of protection, which would explain why they're so popular with consumers. If you book a package holiday through a reputable provider, you are perfectly entitled to expect a good holiday experience. You can claim compensation if:
Your holiday was of a lesser value than the one you booked. That means if you booked an all-inclusive deluxe room and only got a standard room with half-board. This is known as Loss of Value', and you are entitled to claim back the difference (although it's unlikely you'll receive any additional compensation beyond that amount).
You had to spend more money because of a problem with the holiday you booked, such as having to pay extra for an upgraded room or alternative hotel because your hotel was over-booked. This is referred to as Out of Pocket expenses'.
Something happens that causes you distress or disappointment, such as children's facilities being closed or not available - known as Loss of enjoyment'. Unlike the other situations, there's no set amount you can claim for loss of enjoyment, and you could end up with much less than you thought.
You can't claim if you simply didn't like the holiday, the issue was beyond the control of the provider (such as bad weather), or you received compensation while you were on holiday.
Having a flight delayed or cancelled can be one of the biggest issues travellers face. It eats into your precious holiday time, and who wants to spend hours at an airport, anyway? A package holiday provider should immediately make provisions for alternative flights if your original flight is cancelled or delayed. However, it pays to double check your agreement before you set out, to see exactly what your provider is contractually obliged to deliver, whether that's overnight accommodation or paid travel to an alternative departure point.
ATOL is the Air Travel Organiser's Licencing scheme. Always make sure your holiday is ATOL protected'. This means that if the airline you are supposed to be travelling with goes out of business right in the middle of your holiday (and it does happen), you'll get compensation - either a refund if you haven't set off or ensuring that you're not left stranded if the company collapses in the middle of your break.
Organising a holiday yourself
If you organise a holiday yourself (which is becoming increasingly popular thanks to price comparison services), then getting compensation if things go wrong can be considerably more complicated. That's particularly true if the company is based abroad and is not covered by UK legislation. That doesn't mean you are unable to make any compensation claim for a holiday that's gone awry, but you may need the help of a specialist solicitor in our Dispute Resolution Department make sure you get what you're owed.