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Legal advice: disputing unfair amendment fees

Have you ever run into problems changing a booking? Here’s how we were able to help a member get his fees reduced.

In October 2018, Which? Legal member Michael booked a holiday costing £2,953 with Citalia, an Italian holiday specialist, which he paid a deposit for.

Michael had been planning to travel in June 2019, but later changed his mind. In December 2018, he requested to push the departure date back a few months to September 2019.

Additional costs

Citalia said this amendment would cost £462 extra. It explained that Micheal’s initial deposit was used to purchase flights, and so any changes to the trip would require new flights to be booked.

Michael said that Citalia had not made it clear that his deposit would be used to book flights immediately when he made the booking.

He queried the fee, and was told that the process was in Citalia’s terms and conditions, which Michael had agreed to. Citalia refused to reduce the charge.

Citalia is within its rights to charge for additional costs resulting from Michael’s amendments to his trip, as long as the costs are reasonable and proportionate to what was spent. To check this, we advised Michael to ask Citalia to justify the charges to buy another flight.

Our advice and the law

We advised Michael to argue that it would be an unfair contract term for Citalia to be able to charge a disproportionately high fee (in this case, the cost of a new flight) if no new flights had been bought.

This led to Citalia admitting that the details of Michael’s original flight had simply been amended, and that no additional flights were booked.

Citalia reduced Mr Garlick’s fee to £164 – the price it had been charged to make the alteration.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that a consumer contract term can be considered unfair if it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights to the detriment of the consumer.

In this case, Citalia charged Michael a disproportionately high fee to change his booking. Citalia told us a full investigation was carried out following the complaint and that the difference between the flights was refunded.

It also refunded the cost of his subscription to Which? where he obtained his legal advice.

Have you ever been asked to pay additional fees for amendments to a booking? Did you feel they were disproportionate?

David Porter says:
17 April 2020

As a Sky TV customer I have in addition to the entertainment package the Sky Sports bolt-on package.

I understand that it is possible to opt-out from the subscription on a request basis for as long as live action is not running due to the Covid19.

In attempting to contact Sky I can get through the id process but upon trying to get to the next screen it’s always “This service is not available – please try later”

Of course it never is…

Phone calls to Customer Services seem a waste of time as you never get to a human.

Has anybody been successful?