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Case studies - Error threat to dream trip

One couple nearly missed out on a dream family holiday because of a mistake by a travel agent.

Bob and Nesta Nevatte had saved for a long time to pay for the £1,770 two-week holiday in Cyprus with their daughter and grandchildren. They booked the trip through The Co-op Travel Agency in Portsmouth to stay at a Thomson Gold Hotel.

The holiday was due to start on 12 July 2013 but when they got home with all their paperwork they realised that the shop assistant had mistakenly booked them for a holiday leaving on 12 June 2013. They returned to the travel agent the next day and a different assistant contacted Thomson to change the date. Thomson said it would only do this if the Nevattes paid an extra 50%, which it said was the cost of going on the holiday a month later, plus a booking fee.

Faced with the prospect of missing their holiday or paying extra for someone else’s administrative error, the couple called our lawyers at Which? Legal. 

Which? Legal advice

Our lawyers advised them to write a letter to Thomson asking it to change the dates of the holiday at no cost, as the error was made by The Co-op as Thomson’s representative. Thomson refused to put anything right, saying that it was The Co-op’s fault.

Outcome

After further advice from Which? Legal, Bob went back to The Co-op Travel Agency. The travel agent said that since it had made the mistake, it would change the dates on the Nevatte’s booking, and agreed to pick up the cost of £302 imposed by Thomson. 

Legal points

Under the Package Travel Regulations, the tour operator is responsible for all aspects of a holiday. In addition, any terms and conditions in the holiday contract are subject to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. 

The Office of Fair Trading has given guidelines for what would be considered an unfair term. For example, if a contract said that a customer would have to pay to correct a booking mistake that was made through the fault of the ‘principal’ (the tour operator) or ‘agent’ (the travel agent) it could be argued that such a term is unfair. If a mistake is made during the booking, the tour operator or its agent – the travel agent – should cover the cost of correcting it.