Cockroaches. Dirty bed linen. Bulldozers and builders hammering away in the bright morning sunshine. Rats in the kitchen. Unspeakable things floating in the swimming pool. Classic ingredients of a holiday from hell.
Most holiday brochures don't mention such things, obviously. But holiday brochures do make promises of one thing and another, and quite often the reality doesn't quite match up to the airbrushed publicity material. If things go wrong, what can you do about it?
If your holiday is a package holiday, then you will have the protection of the Package Travel Regulations ("the Regulations"). Unlike holidays where you arrange your own travel and accommodation, a package holiday is one where you purchase two or more of: accommodation, travel and "tourist services" (which means excursions, tours, guides, and so on).
The Regulations make the tour operator responsible for the failure of virtually any aspect of your holiday, even if it sub-contracts parts of its services to others. Additionally, you will have a contract with the tour operator which will define what services it has to provide to you (either directly or through others - for example, foreign hoteliers, airlines, car hire operators). The holiday contract may set out limits on tour operator's liability if things go wrong. The Regulations give you extra protections.
If a dispute arises as to what went wrong, and who was at fault, the person who has to adjudicate on it is going to have to form their view based on the best evidence available. You should therefore register your complaint as soon as any problem arises. This might result in a swift, on the spot fix to the problem so that you can enjoy the rest of your holiday as planned, and it will put a marker down in the holiday company's records that a problem exists. It will be much harder for the timing, nature and extent of whatever it is that you are unhappy with to be disputed later if it has been recorded in writing at the time.
If you remain unsatisfied, when you get home you should write a formal letter of complaint to the tour operator. Set out your complaint in detail so that anyone reading the letter would be able to see precisely what you were promised, what was delivered, and why the tour operator is in breach of contract and its responsibilities under the Regulations. Suggest a compensation figure, and explain your rationale for it.
Most tour operators are members of ABTA and are bound by an arbitration scheme which you can refer your complaint to, if you do not receive a satisfactory explanation and/or offer of compensation. This might also be a requirement of the holiday contract. If not, or if it is waived, you can issue proceedings in the county court if you prefer.
Either way, it is important to set out your claim properly, and to claim the right amount of compensation.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.
We can offer a fixed price, streamlined service to guide you through the process. For further information, please contact Nigel Broadbent.
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