You’ve spent hours scouring the internet, read all the reviews and finally hit the ‘book now’ button on your chosen accommodation. But what happens when you get there and it’s not quite what you were expecting? What should you do?
If you’re staying within Australia and you booked your accommodation through an Australian registered company or site, then the good news is that your consumer rights are protected. These rights include that accommodation services must be provided:
- with due care and skill
- so that they are fit for any specified purpose
- within a reasonable period of time (i.e. you can get into your room at a reasonable time).
In addition to this, the accommodation must be:
- be safe and of acceptable quality
- match the description provided when you booked it
- be advertised in a manner that is not false or misleading.
It’s also important to note that none of these rights can be reduced, even if you agree to contract terms and conditions. If your accommodation is not up to scratch, you should contact the consumer rights organisation in your state or territory, or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
If you’re booking accommodation for overseas, or are using a site that is not registered in Australia, then the consumer rights in that country will apply to your booking.
Of course, this is little comfort when you arrive at your destination to find your posh pad is not so palatial. As angry or annoyed as you may be, it’s important not to take it out on the hotel staff who will ultimately have to address your issues.
Before approaching staff, you should:
- make a list of the items that do not match those detailed in your booking confirmation
- note the areas that are simply not satisfactory (dirty bathroom, unmade bed, etc.)
- take photos for further evidence in case required
- decide what course of action you deem acceptable to rectify the situation.
Once you have this information at hand, you should approach the reception desk and ask to speak to the duty manager. Although other staff may be able to assist, it’s worth going straight to the top.
If your complaint cannot be resolved, you can revert to the following:
- contact the head office of the hotel group and demand, in a firm yet polite way, that your concerns are addressed immediately
- contact the booking agent you used to make the reservation and ask that they resolve the issues
- get in touch with you travel insurance provider and ask if they can assist.
The reality is, however, that it’s always better to try and avoid the issues before they occur, especially if you’re travelling in an overseas country. So before you book your accommodation, consider the following:
- Don’t be fooled by the pictures you see online – of course, these are going to be the best shots the accommodation uses to promote itself. Google the accommodation for review, do a Google Street View search, and, if possible, google the owners name or any details you can find.
- If possible, arrange to pay for your accommodation when you check in. If not possible, always pay by credit card as you have a certain level of consumer protection if things go wrong.
- Book your travel insurance at the same time you book your accommodation and you should be covered should you need to cancel.
- Check the accommodation’s cancellation policy and note any penalties.
- Be clear about the extras you may have to pay for – e.g. wifi – and ask for confirmation by email.
- Specify any additional requirements and ask for confirmation. If something is simply subject to availability, don’t be annoyed if it’s not available when you arrive.
- Print and take your booking confirmation and any additional correspondence with you. You may need to refer to this if things don’t go to plan.
And, finally, read the small print – it is very important.