We all expect our holiday to take us away from the stress and hassle of our everyday working life. Sadly it doesn’t always work out that way, and for some folk it ends up as one of the most stressful times in their lives.It isn’t a rare occurrence to read in the papers about “holidays from hell”, and illness is one of the headlines. One well publicised case in the not too distant past concerned an individual who along with a large number of fellow guests fell ill on a two week holiday in the Middle East. The blame fell on the holiday firm and its local representatives. The claim was that food wasn’t cooked properly, not stored correctly, and the swimming pool wasn’t fit for use due to lack of proper maintenance and inadequate cleaning. Eventually Salmonella amongst other organisms were identified as the cause of the illnesses, but the Company’s response was there was very little if anything their holiday reps could do.This type of case is very much the exception and not the rule, however problems and difficulties do occur, even if they are not on the same scale. It may be just a very noisy building site next door which hammers away all day and every day, that ruins a holiday, or something less disruptive but equally annoying such as the view looking over the dustbins.Whatever the reason, be it a major thing like food poisoning or a minor thing like dustbins you don’t need to go to court to get compensation. As a consumer you have rights, but you need to be aware of them, and then you can very often get back at least some of the money you paid out for a holiday that was less than adequate.When you book a holiday you effectively create a contract between yourself and the tour operator, and quite simply this means they have a legal obligation to provide the holiday described in their brochure. If you have booked a package holiday the tour operator has responsibility for pretty well everything. What this covers is the hotel and your experience there, the quality of the aircraft, even the in-flight entertainment!! What this means is that you can claim back some if not all of the money you paid if your holiday goes sour.
What you do first of all if something goes wrong is to complain to the holiday rep whilst you are still on holiday. Whatever you do, get evidence, such as photographs, and any other proof you can get your hands on, even witness statements if that is appropriate. You also need to state clearly and concisely why you feel the holiday has fallen short of the standard you were led to expect.By making an official complaint at the time you have a better chance of salvaging at least a bit of your holiday, but you need to realise that if your claim continues after you have come home, it probably will fail if you can’t prove you tried to get the problem solved at the time it occurred. Logically it’s difficult to base your case on the fact your holiday was spoilt if you didn’t speak up about it at the time. You also need to be aware that if you received some form of compensation during your holiday there is no chance of trying to claim more after returning home. You cannot reopen the case later.On the other hand if you weren’t offered any compensation at the time, or a solution to the problem whilst you were on holiday, you need to out your complaint in writing, along with photographs, and witness statements if you have them, to the tour operator as soon as possible after returning home. The more evidence you have, the more powerful your claim. In the letter you must include the words ‘breach of package Travel Regulations’ stating clearly that the Tour Operator is in breach of these regulations. The letter should also state that you are making a demand for compensation on that basis.In the letter you should also state the amount of compensation you are claiming for the breach of your holiday contract. This may not be easy to calculate unless it is something like a trip you, or a service you paid for up front within the total cost of your holiday, that proved to be unavailable. In which case you should have found out at the time what was being charged locally for this.Again if it was something like free transport to and from the airport that should have been provided, then you will know exactly how much you paid to have it. In this instance it is sensible to keep receipts to prove the amount you were forced to spend due to the negligence of the tour operator. By the way when you write, don’t send the originals of any evidence you have, it can be amazing how they can get lost, so send photocopies!!The big difficulty is calculating how much loss of enjoyment is worth. That could well be part and parcel of trips being unavailable, services not happening, but the value is so difficult to calculate.What you need to do here is to try to determine how much of your holiday was ruined by issues like a room over the dustbins, a pile driver at work fifty yards away eight hours a day. If for example you didn’t sit on your terrace because of the view and the aroma from the dustbins, you might say it ruined 4 hours a day. Out of a waking day of 14 hours that is around 28% of your holiday. Look at the cost of your holiday and allow 60% for the cost of your airfare, then take 28% of what is left. That is only a rough example, and it isn’t an exact science.If you need further help in estimating the amount of compensation you may be entitled to, your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Consumer Direct will be able to help.
The tour operator should respond to your complaint letter within 28 days. If their response doesn’t satisfy you, and you may get all the excuses under the sun, or they offer you a pittance as compensation you must reply. In your reply you should tell them you are not accepting their offer, and if they don’t give you satisfaction then you will go to arbitration or the small claims court. By law they must reply again within 28 days, and it is at this stage you must escalate your complaint if there isn’t a satisfactory responseIn fairness whilst many tour operators will try to get out of refunding you, most are members of ABTA who try to ensure that holiday companies stick to the rules about customer satisfaction. Therefore go to them next, and they will attempt to solve your dispute. Failing that the next stage is independent arbitration or court.Arbitration is handled by an independent adjudicator who will try to reach a solution acceptable to both parties. Bear in mind his decision is legally binding, so if you don’t like it there is nothing more to be done, and court action is no longer available to you.You could miss out the arbitration and go straight to the small claims court, or alternatively if you paid for your holiday with a credit card there is getting your money back from your credit card company through a Section 75 claim. Be aware however you will almost never get a full refund unless everything was wrong with your holiday from beginning to end, but hopefully you will be able to use this advice to get some compensation.
Ian is a travel writer who has several successful travel websites.Take a look at his newest website The Holiday Planning Guide, then check out the best way of booking a villa for your holidays at Booking a Villa Holiday