Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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How to deal with the problem

How to deal with the problem

In most cases, the way to resolve your problem when things go wrong will be to ask the supplier of the service for financial compensation.

If you haven't yet gone on the holiday, you may be able to cancel the holiday and ask for a full refund.

Who can complain

If the holiday was a package holiday, anyone who went on the holiday can make a complaint - it doesn't have to be the person who made the booking.

Otherwise, usually only the person who booked the holiday can complain. If you didn't book the holiday yourself, you should ask the person who made the booking to make the complaint or give you written authority to make the complaint.

Who to complain to

You should complain to:

  • The tour operator if the holiday was a package holiday;
  • The provider of the accommodation or transport if it wasn't a package holiday; or
  • Your travel agent, if your complaint is about additional services they arranged for you.

You should also send a copy of the details of your complaint to:

Before you complain

  • Speak to someone immediately.
  • If they can't help you, try to establish who is responsible for whatever caused the problem.
  • Take a note of the time, location and names of people you're dealing with.
  • If possible, note the names and addresses of other holidaymakers who saw the incident.
  • Keep a copy of all receipts and other evidence as well as a full timeline.
  • Consider whether your holiday insurance policy covers what you're complaining about. If so, consider whether you can claim and be aware of any deadlines that apply to such claims.
  • Identify the organisation you should complain to.

How to complain

Complain as soon as possible after discovering the problem. If the problem arose while you were on holiday, it'll help if you can show you complained at the time, providing evidence, if available.

Always put your complaint in writing, even if you also telephoned. The letter should include details of the following:

  • Invoice number, booking confirmation number, ticket number and any other reference numbers relating to the complaint
  • Travel dates
  • The cost of what it is you're complaining about, such as accommodation, transport or a package holiday
  • A clear description of the fault or problem
  • A statement about how the problem affected you (and other members of your party, if relevant) - be factual and avoid irrelevant comments
  • Anything said in the brochure, newspaper advertisement or other literature connected with the problem
  • Anything that was said at the time of making the holiday arrangements or booking that is relevant to the problem in any way
  • Details of the travel agent if one was used
  • What you want - for example, your money back, or how much compensation you would like
  • Copies of any relevant documents or photographs that give evidence of the problem, for example, the state of the accommodation, supporting statements from witnesses, receipts or a copy of the brochure
  • All other relevant documents, such as copies of the booking confirmation or invoice, etc.
  • A time limit within which you expect a reply

Keep a copy of the letter and all original documents and photographs.

Further action

If you're unsuccessful in resolving the problem after complaining, you may wish to consider using an arbitration or mediation scheme, such as those operated by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) or the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). For more information about ABTA and AITO, see Consumer bodies for holiday complaints.

Otherwise, your only other option is to consider taking court action. For more information, see Making a claim.

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