No vacancy?

The request for advice: We have booked accommodation in three separate resorts through the same company at a supposed discounted rate.  At the time of booking we were advised that NO standard rooms were available and that we would have to book the next level. At the time, I thought it strange for all three resorts to be booked out seven weeks in advance…   I have since checked on the net and all accommodation we requested has standard rooms available. I am so annoyed to have been deliberately misled that I want to cancel my booking, but the terms state any bookings cancelled 72 hours or less prior to check-in will result in the full amount being forfeited. Our credit card will be debited for the cancellation. We are due to arrive on Friday.

The legal position: Consumer laws provide that misleading and deceptive statements about product can expose a business to compensation claims. The alleged misleading statements in this case are:

  1. ‘NO standard rooms are available’. The resort may well have a policy of holding back rooms, and therefore the statement might have been true.
  2. ‘Discounted rate’. The resort will no doubt say the rate offered is likely to be discounted from the ‘rack rate’ and therefore this statement might also have been true.

The advice to the consumer: Whether you have been misled is open to doubt. Proceed with the booking or the resort will be entitled to debit the cancellation fee if you cancel because it is less than 72 hours before check in. You will have a complaint about being misled if you arrive and find the ‘better than standard room’ you have booked is not of a higher quality than a standard room.

Australian travel and tourism lawyer Anthony Cordato contributes a regular column to Backpacker Trade News.

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