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Recent Complaints of Note
What to Expect from Legal Action


In most cases your holiday with go without a hitch, but there are occasions when it is necessary to take things beyond the tour operator or travel agent in order to get a satisfactory solution to a problem. Whilst travel agents and tour operators will seek to appear helpful, they are not easily persuaded to pay compensation or right the wrongs for which they are responsible. Their first instincts are to appear nice, but to obstruct. The person in the call centre has clear instructions on how to deal with complaints: 'get rid of the complainant'! If necessary just cut them off. In many cases it really is that bad and you may need to invoke the law.

In dealing with a claim, a judge or an arbitrator will consider many factors. The following points are particularly significant:

A holiday booking is a legally binding contract made with the tour operator - the company that organises your holiday. By law you have the right to expect the holiday that you booked and paid for. So, look carefully at how the holiday is described in the brochure or elsewhere; if the holiday does not match the description you may have a claim against the tour operator for compensation (see below). The operator is liable for all the services - car hire, accommodation, flights, etc - as long as they were part of the package for which you contracted and paid.

It's not enough that you didn't enjoy your holiday. There may be many reasons for this, eg, bad weather or simply a wrong choice of holiday for you, and things beyond the tour operator's control. However, if you accepted the travel agents recommendation as to the suitability of the holiday to meet your stated requirements, make this clear. The travel agent should have all the facts relating to your holiday destination. (Travel Agents have access to details in an ABC guide, colloquially known as "The Truth", and on-line data, giving unbiased information about hotels etc. They also have in-resort staff with first hand knowledge. Any claim that they were unaware of the true nature of a holiday destination is unacceptable in the majority of circumstances. They have everything they need to check and a clear duty to do so.

As a consumer, you have a legal duty to prove that the tour operator has broken the terms/conditions of the holiday contract. Express terms exist where the brochure promises facilities, features or attractions that do not exist or are not functioning. Implied terms are those which aren't spelt out in the contract. For example, you are entitled to expect certain standards of any holiday and if those standards are not met you may have grounds for a claim.

To qualify for compensation you must then prove that you have suffered a loss as a direct result of a breach of the holiday contract. This is not always a straightforward process.

How much compensation you can reasonably expect (if any), depends on the extent to which you were prevented from enjoying the holiday. It is not an exact science. The law expects you to act reasonably when faced with a problem and when
looking for things to be sorted out

If you have a complaint about the quality of goods and services you have a legal duty to 'mitigate' your loss - that means taking all reasonable steps to minimise the disruption to your enjoyment of the holiday. Your claim may not succeed if you didn't complain as soon as possible on the spot while in resort and give the tour operator a reasonable opportunity to put things right, or if you didn't accept any reasonable attempts by the company to sort out the problem at the time. Be patient with these attempts. Remember, to keep down the cost of holidays, tour operator staffs are often poorly paid and of modest ability.

Amazonia - Child with Sloth

Compensation claims can have three components, although your complaint may not fall into every category:

1. Loss of value: the difference between the value of the holiday you paid for and the one provided
2. Out-of-pocket expenses: refund of any reasonable expenses you incurred as a result of the breach of contract
3. Loss of enjoyment: compensation for the disappointment and distress caused by the operator's failure to provide the holiday you had contracted for

Where 'disappointment' and 'distress' form part of the claim, there is little guidance for arbitrators or judges to help them work compensation levels. They will weigh up all the evidence to see if the company has broken the law, but will also look to see if you have acted reasonably. You must work out the amount that represents the proportion of the holiday that was a failure.

When considering compensation claims, it must be borne in mind that of the total cost of a package holiday, air transport costs represent some 60%. The consequence is that compensation for poor hotels etc is likely be be only a percentage of the remaining 40%. It's very rare to get back the whole holiday cost .

Travel brochures are not wysiwyg; they are advertising material - What you see is almost never what you get !

We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising. I still believe that one can learn to play the Piano by mail and that mud will give you a perfect complexion.  Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)