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Michael Rosen among staycationers to have trips pulled at last minute

Staycationing Britons including author Michael Rosen blast Cottages.com and Hoseasons after accusing them of cancelling trips at the last minute and double booking

  • Furious customers have taken to social media following a string of cancellations
  • Among them is children’s writer Michael Rosen, recently hospitalised with Covid 
  • Bosses apologise after errors made following ‘unprecedented levels of demand’

Staycationing Britons including author Michael Rosen have had holidays booked through Cottages.com and Hoseasons cancelled at the last minute with accommodation then re-let to new customers.

Furious customers have taken to social media in recent days to vent frustration with Europe’s leading holiday rentals group after a string of cancellations and long waits for refunds.

Among them is children’s writer Michael Rosen, who was struck down with coronavirus earlier this year and spent three months in hospital.

An example of a property available to book on cottages.com which has apologised for cancelling some reservations

Among the affected customers is children’s writer Michael Rosen, pictured, who was struck down with coronavirus earlier this year and spent three months in hospital

His wife Emma-Louise Williams revealed on Twitter this week the trip, paid for in full and confirmed in writing, was cancelled ‘with four days to go with no reason offered’

THE BEST AND WORST TRAVEL FIRMS FOR CORONAVIRUS CANCELLATION REFUNDS 

1 Travel Counsellors 

2 Hays Travel 

3 Airbnb 

4 Jet2 Holidays 

5 Jet2 

6 British Airways Holidays 

7 Center Parcs 

8 Disney Holidays 

9 Trailfinders 

10 Haven 

11 Saga 

12 Hotels.com 

13 Booking.com 

14 Easyjet Holidays 

15 British Airways 

16 HomeAway 

17 American Airlines 

18 Ebookers 

19 Onthebeach 

20 Qatar Airways

21 Travel Republic 

22 Easyjet 

23 Expedia 

24 P&O Cruises 

25 Eurotunnel 

26 Aer Lingus 

27 Norwegian 

28 Riviera 

29 Eurostar 

30 Wizz Air 

31 Emirates 

32 Lufthansa 

33 Brittany Ferries 

34 Virgin Atlantic 

35 Cottages.com 

36 First Choice 

37 Tui 

38 Vueling 

39 Hoseasons 

40 Love Holidays 

41 Virgin Holidays 

42 Air France 

43 Secret Escapes 

44 STA Travel 

45 Sykes Cottages 

46 KLM 

47 Ryanair 

48 Opodo 

49 Lastminute.com 

50 Holiday Extras 

51 Teletext Holidays 

52 TravelUp 

53 Travel Trolley  

207  +91

1,017  +70 

924  +56 

1,621  +54 

1,593  +47 

289  +45 

202  +42 

147  +37 

233  +32 

212  +30 

151  +26

441  +21 

1,178  +18 

163  +10 

1,809  +8 

199  +8 

123  +1 

108  -11 

283  -18 

112  -21 

266  -27 

2,425  -28 

811  -28 

603  -30 

106  -35 

193  -38 

196  -42 

142  -45 

239  -46 

158  -48 

450  -48 

142  -49 

253  -50 

627  -51 

244  -54 

223  -60 

3,252  -60 

119  -61 

451  -68 

677  -70 

775  -73 

149  -76 

299  -76 

150  -77 

610  -79

596  -82 

2,563  -82 

283  -86 

550  -87 

291  -92

251  -94 

593  -95 

338  -95 

The table ranks firms by net score (number of ‘great’ votes minus the number of ‘poor’ votes – with ‘OK’ votes disregarded) and lists the number of responses for each. Only firms with more than 100 responses have been included.

Source: Moneysavingexpert.com 

He had booked out a property in Somerset for a week with his family, the Guardian reports, but wife Emma-Louise Williams revealed on Twitter this week the trip, paid for in full and confirmed in writing, was cancelled ‘with four days to go with no reason offered’.

As her tweet was shared dozens of times, other customers said they had endured a similar experience.

The Awaze Group, which runs both Cottages.com and Hoseasons, has apologised to staycationers after seeing ‘unprecedented levels of demand’ in recent weeks, with a ‘tenfold increase’ in bookings as domestic travel restrictions were lift it.

The company admitted its systems ‘didn’t scale to the level we needed them to’ and so a number of duplicate bookings occurred.

‘It is very disappointing,’ Williams told the Guardian. 

‘Michael had been really looking forward to a week away because he has been so seriously ill and just needed a moment to breathe.’ 

A spokesman for Cottages.com said: ‘Due to the large number of last-minute bookings and rebookings we have received there have been a small number of duplicate-booking issues within our system. 

‘We have apologised to those customers involved and are working with them to ensure they can rebook their holiday or receive a prompt cash refund. 

‘We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused and ask if customers could bear with us while we resolve the issue.’

It comes after an investigative survey in May found the way travel companies have treated their customers as a result of the pandemic varies enormously.  

It asked 27,000 travel customers to rate firms according to how they’ve dealt with problems arising from coronavirus and filtered them into a 53-place ranking.

Travel Counsellors came top, followed by Hays Travel and Airbnb, with travel agent Travel Trolley at the very bottom, followed by TravelUp (52nd) and Teletext Holidays (51st) – and Ryanair in 47th place.

Cottages.com ranked 35th and Hoseasons 39th according to the survey.

The two sites were among a number of Britain’s biggest holiday lettings firms to have been reported to the competition regulator after an investigation raised concerns they could be using unfair contract terms to deny customers refunds for coronavirus cancellations.

They have been referred to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) by Which? after frustrated customers got in touch with the consumer champion about problems in securing a refund for holidays cancelled as a result of the UK lockdown.

Some complained about terms and conditions that make the refund claims process difficult, if not impossible.

Which? says it checked the terms and conditions of five of the UK’s biggest holiday letting companies – including Hoseasons and Cottages.com – to understand consumers’ entitlement to a refund for cancellations under these circumstances, and found terms that could potentially be challenged as unfair under the Consumer Rights Act.

The consumer champion says that in four of the five contracts, the terms set out how owners of properties rented through the sites are allowed to cancel the holiday if circumstances outside of their control prevent them from being able to provide the property, but do not explain what the consumer’s right to a refund would be in these circumstances.

Which? says it is concerned that if the right to a refund isn’t provided by additional terms between the property owner and the customer, property owners have too much leeway to keep a customer’s money if a booking is cancelled – making it potentially unfair according to the law.

The companies also told customers that bookings are subject to the additional terms and conditions of the property owner and that these are ‘available from the suppliers if you ask’.

While the booking terms say other information may be provided to the consumer during the booking process, if this doesn’t include these additional terms and they are only available on request, Which? believes this could also potentially be challenged as legally unfair.

A spokesman for the companies said earlier this year: ‘We have responded and adapted to the evolving issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as we have received new guidelines from the government. 

‘Following the statement from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) we have now expanded the options available to support any customers who were due to travel with us during government-imposed travel restrictions and who prefer not to accept one of our vouchers.’ 

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