A couple’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration was ruined when a hotel cancelled their booking at just 24 hours’ notice – despite them having booked it seven months in advance.
Professor Trevor Kerry and his wife Carolle booked a nostalgic long weekend at the Seiont Manor hotel in Snowdonia, for August 2013 and paid £747 for an executive room with fine dining. They chose the area because it was where they used to holiday with their children when they were small, so they weren’t happy to be offered alternative hotels up to 20 miles away.
The hotel blamed a computer error, even though the couple booked on the phone with its reception. The couple then had to go elsewhere, losing a day of their break finding accommodation and incurring extra expenses.
Seiont Manor eventually refunded the payment, but the Kerrys felt that the customer service fell short of what they expected. Their request for compensation for missing out on a long-planned special holiday was rejected, first by hotel management and then by the Hand Picked Hotels Group chairman, Julia Hands, who said she felt the hotel’s proposals had been fair.
Which? Legal steps in
When their formal complaint letter went unanswered, the Kerrys contacted Which? Legal Service for advice. We said Hand Picked Hotels was in breach of contract and so the couple were entitled to claim for loss of enjoyment and damages.
We advised that they write a Letter before Action setting out the claim and informing Hand Picked Hotels that they intended to pursue it in court. The couple were concerned about court costs, particularly if they should lose, but we were able to allay their fears.
In November, the hotel offered £817.35 to settle the claim, including an amount for loss of enjoyment. The couple accepted.
What the law says…
Going to court is a last resort. You should first consider mediation or another form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. If you can’t agree, the next stage would be to decide whether to issue legal proceedings.
The small claims track of the county court makes it possible to make a claim without the need to employ a legal representative, for claims not exceeding £10,000 in England and Wales for breach of contract. The small claims limit in Scottish courts is £3,000. Other limits apply in other areas of law. If you lose, you’d be liable only for your court fees and the expenses of witnesses.
Have you ever had a booking cancelled at the last moment like the Kerrys? Have you ever taken a matter to the small claims court?