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deep_south_gb
20th Jul 2008, 11:22
We had 2 pre-booked seats for our Malaga - Bournemouth return flight, but when we checked in we were told we didn't have seats together - eventually a superviser made a phone call, which initially said we didn't have pre-booked seats, but then said we did, and for some reason the computer "had the wrong code".

So we were told to claim a refund on our return from "the call centre", as they were unable to refund at the airport.

After 25 minutes on hold to an 0871 (10p/minute) we were told the call centre couldn't do this - we had to email the "errors" department at [email protected], and they didn't have a phone number.

After a week we haven't even had an acknowledgement that they have received the email.... I know it's only £10 (plus the call costs) but they are quick enough to take the money in the first place... does anyone have a phone number that might be used to hurry them along?

Or does anyone have recent experience about how long this kind of thing might take?

raffele
20th Jul 2008, 11:27
I don't have any recent experience, but I do have a top tip:

If you're ringing a company with an 08 number, check on Say No To 0870 (http://www.saynoto0870.com/) to see if the database has a geographical number listed. Most of the time you will save yourself a lot of money! However, some numbers (0845 numbers for example) are cheaper to ring than the geographical numbers (depending on your network) so check before you dial! :8

TSR2
20th Jul 2008, 19:40
Don't waste your money on phone calls. Use the e-mail facility on the 'Contact Us' section of their web site OR write to the address given.

c2lass
21st Jul 2008, 12:20
There are some horror stories of most of the big Tour Operators on a holiday website complaint forum. It would appear alot of people are experiencing appalling customer service, unanswered emails, letters and promises of call backs not happening.

Some people have even resorted to sending in their telephone bills to claim back the extortionate amount of phone charges they have incurred on these 0870 numbers.

TSR2
21st Jul 2008, 23:29
One letter that always gets a response.

State your facts. Provide your evidence. Request a response within 28 days failing which you will seek redress through the County Court (Small Claims).

Final 3 Greens
21st Jul 2008, 23:41
Request a response within 28 days

10 days is ample, then give them another 7 if they do nor respond, but be prepared to go through with it.

Its an easy process and I once got several hundred pounds awarded from a large tour operator who misdescribed a property and thought they were above the law.

c2lass
22nd Jul 2008, 05:18
I think that under ABTA they have 28 days to respond.

Just read of one poor family who have had their holiday booked for 10 months and were due to fly out this week. They received a telephone call at the weekend advising that the Tour Operator has overbooked so they cannot go to their chosen hotel/resort and therefore their holiday has been cancelled.

They have been offered £40 compensation and been told it will be 2 weeks before they can refund their payments. Absolutely appalling that this can happen!!

If this happened to me, I would take myself off to the nearest branch of the TO and refuse to leave the premises until the matter had been resolved and I had my money back.

Final 3 Greens
22nd Jul 2008, 07:40
I think that under ABTA they have 28 days to respond.

It may be true under ABTA arbitration, I don't know, but if you decide to take them to the small claims division of the county court, 10 days is ample.

leisurelad
22nd Jul 2008, 14:59
I think you will find 28 days is the norm, but depends what terms and conditions are set by the tour operator, some even have 56days in which a full reply should be given.

I think it can only go to court if you have exhausted all avenues of communication and the 28 or 56 day rule has passed. Until then you have not given the company the opportunity to investigate and reply with its answer.

Had a customer the other week that didn't like his hotel and that the food tasted different, first words were, i'm taking you to court. I asked him if he had contacted us regarding his complaint and he said no.

Some people need to get a grip, you're in a foreign country, it's going to taste different !!!. If there is a case then at least do it properly, follow the rules and do it correctly before you start holding companies to court action.

Final 3 Greens
22nd Jul 2008, 20:53
I think it can only go to court if you have exhausted all avenues of communication and the 28 or 56 day rule has passed. Until then you have not given the company the opportunity to investigate and reply with its answer.

You are wrong.

SXB
23rd Jul 2008, 09:14
F3G is correct.Furthermore, what an operator may put in it's T&C's regarding how long they have to deal with complaints is completely irrelevant. Once you've finished your holiday the tour operator is either in breach of contract or they aren't. While your holiday is taking place they can have a reasonable amount of time to correct any problem. Thereafter, it's about settlement and if you went to the small claims court they would view 10 days as sufficient time for a settlement to be reached.One of the main objectives of the small claims court is to settle cases quickly.

leisurelad
23rd Jul 2008, 12:48
From the ABTA webiste on complaints procedure. Sorry its a bit long but it isn't as simple to take a company to court if you haven't given them time to investigate and reply as per ABTA Code of Conduct:

Iíve written to my ABTA travel company with details of my complaint. How long should I have to wait for a reply?

ABTA Members are required to acknowledge correspondence within 14 days of receipt, and to provide a detailed response to any letter of complaint within 28 days of receipt.
Iíve received a response and Iím not happy with it. What should I do?

If youíre not satisfied, then you should write a further letter clearly detailing what youíre looking for to settle the dispute. Tell them what would be acceptable to you.
I wrote to the company over 28 days ago, but I havenít had a reply. What can I do?

Send us a copy of your letter, a copy of your confirmation invoice, and a covering letter. Weíll then chase up a response on your behalf.
ABTA Consumer Affairs Department, 68-71 Newman Street, London W1T 3AH
Iíve now received two full written responses, but Iím not happy with them. How can I pursue the matter further?

Send us copies of your letters, copies of the replies, and a copy of your confirmation invoice, together with a covering letter. Weíll then be able to advise you on avenues available to you. Please donít send originals or photographs.
ABTA Consumer Affairs Department, 68-71 Newman Street, London W1T 3AH
Iíve been advised that I can take my case to arbitration. What is this?

Arbitration is a private process by which an independent person, called an arbitrator, resolves a dispute by making a legally binding decision (called an award). Itís a long-established and effective method of resolving disputes and is the only legal alternative to resolving your dispute through the courts. Be aware that you may win your case, partially win your case or lose your case, and remember that whether successful or unsuccessful, you and the holiday company remain legally obliged to comply with the arbitratorís final decision, subject to any review or appeal made by either of the parties.
Whatís the arbitratorís role?

The arbitrator will decide your case on the basis of the evidence you submit. Their role is similar to a judge, and theyíll make a legally binding award about your case as fairly and as neutrally as possible. Arbitrators canít help you to make your case; they can only determine the outcome as justly and speedily as they are able. All the arbitrators are Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and are qualified and experienced in travel arbitrations.
The arbitrator will:

consider the partiesí arguments and evidence;
act fairly and impartially;
act according to the law.Whatís an arbitratorís award?

The award is the judgement that the arbitrator makes in the case. Itís binding on the parties and generally enforceable in the courts. At the end of the case a document is sent to the parties that consists of two parts: the award and the reasons. The award contains the legally binding orders for the parties and the reasons contain the details of the case and the arbitratorís assessment.
Howís the arbitration case conducted?

The case is conducted on a documents-only procedure. The arbitrator makes an award based on the documents and evidence submitted by the parties in dispute. Itís in the interests of each party to state its case clearly and to produce all relevant supporting documents.
How long will the arbitration procedure take?

The procedure takes approximately seven weeks from the date that the application for arbitration is received.
How much compensation can I claim?

A claim for compensation can be made for up to, but not exceeding, £5,000 per person, provided the total amount doesnít exceed £25,000.
If my case is unsuccessful, will I have to pay the companyís (respondentís) costs?

If you fail in your claim, itís likely that youíll be ordered to pay an amount which is equal to the sum you paid as the registration fee. You wonít be liable for any other costs unless, for example, you (or the other party) have failed to accept an offer of settlement, which equals or exceeds the arbitrator's award.
How much will arbitration cost me?

Youíll need to pay a registration fee. The amount of the fee depends on the amount youíre claiming:
Total of claimFee£1.00 - £3,000£72.85£3,001- £5,000£98.70£5,001 - £10,000£129.25£10,000 - £25,000£164.50
The parties are responsible for the cost of making their cases, including postage, stationery, photocopying and legal representation if used.
Can the arbitrator or administrator give me advice on my case?

No. The arbitrator and the administrator are impartial, and canít act as a consultant or adviser to either party. They can only advise you on procedural matters.
If you need advice, you can seek it from a solicitor, a Citizens Advice Bureau, a law centre, or a neighbourhood advice centre.
Do I have to attend a hearing?

No. Thereís no hearing. The procedure is based on documents only.
Do I need legal representation?

No, not necessarily. The arbitration scheme was set up expressly to allow the parties to present their cases without the need for legal representation.
How does the arbitrator decide the case?

The arbitrator decides the case purely on the arguments and evidence presented by the parties. The arbitrator assesses the evidence and analyses the terms of the contract which were agreed to by the claimant and the holiday company, when the holiday booking was made. The arbitrator specifically looks for a proven breach of this contract.
The arbitrator will try to help the parties resolve their dispute in any way possible but is restricted to consideration of the documents and evidence submitted. You must therefore make every point and submit all supporting evidence that you consider relevant. You must also retrieve and submit any documents sent previously to any other body on which you intend to rely.
Neither the arbitrator nor the administrator are investigators. So, if you have witnesses to support your case, you must obtain their statements and submit them. It wonít be acceptable for you to send a list of witnesses and ask the arbitrator to contact them. Likewise, it isnít sufficient for you to say that you have evidence. You must produce it.
Subject to any directions that the arbitrator orders, and to their case load, an award is made within 21 days.
What if I decide to settle the case before the arbitrationís completed?

Either party has a right to enter into settlement negotiations at any time before the arbitrator makes an award. Negotiations are private discussions between the parties and you should correspond directly with the other party and not through the administrator. Both parties, however, must notify successful settlements to the administrator, so that the arbitration can be terminated. Registration fees are non-refundable in the event of settlement, so they should be taken into account as part of the negotiated settlement.
Can I refuse the offer of settlement?

Yes. The company (respondent) has the right to offer you settlement money, and the claimant has the right to accept or to refuse such offers.
When offers of settlement are made, you should consider the following:

Settlement offers arenít necessarily viewed by the arbitrator as an admission of guilt.
If the arbitrator awards you an amount equal to, or less than, the amount previously offered by the respondent, you may be liable to pay the respondent a sum equivalent to your registration fee. This is because it was unnecessary for you to resort to arbitration.
Any money you receive from the respondent shouldnít be banked and should be returned to the holiday company before arbitration is initiated. Remember. if you accept money in full and final settlement of any dispute before or during the arbitration, the arbitration may be deemed void, as youíre agreeing to settle the dispute.If my claimís unsuccessful, what can I do next?

If you lose your case there are two ways of challenging the arbitratorís award. You can appeal through the High Court within 28 days of receiving the award, or you can request a review under the IDRS Consumer Arbitration Scheme Review Procedure. Details of this procedure are available from the administrator. Applications for review must be made within 21 days of receiving the award. Both of these deadlines are strictly enforced, and if you donít act within the deadline youíll lose the right of appeal or review. If no appeal is initiated through the High Court, or review through the administrator, the award will remain legally binding on the parties.
Remember, the fact that you may not like an award made against you (or even in your favour, but not for the total amount claimed) doesnít mean that the award is wrong in law.
Iíve been told that if I pursue my claim via my local County Court, the Court could tell me to seek other ways of resolving the dispute. Is this correct?

Yes - a judge can ask whether any other dispute resolution has been considered. If it hasnít, the judge can direct both parties to look at other ways to resolve the dispute, such as arbitration, and can postpone the court case for up to one month while you explore this. Ultimately it can lead to further delays and loss of your court fee.

SXB
23rd Jul 2008, 13:18
Leisurelad,The ABTA complaints procedure is a voluntary code of conduct and has absolutely no basis in law. If you want to sue someone for breach of contract there is nothing in the law which says 'you have to follow the ABTA code of conduct before launching legal proceedings' If someone decides to sue someone else for breach of contract then the case will be decided by the evidence and available facts, it will not be based around ABTAs (an organisation funded by the travel industry) voluntary procedures.

leisurelad
23rd Jul 2008, 13:46
SXB:

I understand what you are saying, but at the time of booking then you would have agreed with the tour operators terms and conditions which does form part of a legal contract. The tour operator is well within its rights to use these rules as this is what you have agreed to and by you not following these terms then the following may apply.

Iíve been told that if I pursue my claim via my local County Court, the Court could tell me to seek other ways of resolving the dispute. Is this correct?

Yes - a judge can ask whether any other dispute resolution has been considered. If it hasnít, the judge can direct both parties to look at other ways to resolve the dispute, such as arbitration, and can postpone the court case for up to one month while you explore this. Ultimately it can lead to further delays and loss of your court fee.


Don't get me wrong, there are some serious cases whereby the only way to resolve it is in the courts, but ususally, the court will look at the evidence and ask themselves what has been done to resolve this already. Just like a divorce really, 2 parties will try and see what can be done to reasonably settle, if one doesn't give to what the other one wants then ok, take it to the courts and let them settle it.

I don't mind people taking things to court but you have to look at the circumstances based on why you are doing so and whether or not you stand a chance of winning.

SXB
23rd Jul 2008, 14:08
Leisurelad
My point is that you are not obliged to use Abta voluntary complaints procedure, if you choose to pursue a case through the courts then that is your right, what it says in the terms and conditions is completely irrelevant.

A judge may well enquire if you've explored settlement or arbitration possibilities but the first thing he'll do is look at the case, if it's fairly straightforward breach then the court will be happy to deal with the case on that day.

Never lose sight of the fact that ABTA is funded by the travel industry.

deep_south_gb
23rd Jul 2008, 14:57
Thanks for the advice so far. I'm not sure whether the ABTA "rules" come into play, as it was a flight booked direct, and the Thomsonfly website explicity states that flights from Bournemouth (and several other airports) are not included in the ATOL protection.

I have called the call centre again, and they are now saying it could take 10 to 28 days for the "errors" department to even acknowledge my email. Which sounds crazy - they don't even do an auto-reply to say "we've got your mail; it might take 14 to 28 days to respond to it" - which would be a lot better than the vacuum I have at the moment.

Interestingly, the call centre operator told me they are *not* allowed to put me through to a superviser to make a complaint about this system, as it all has to go through the "errors" department, who cannot be contacted direct - you have to wait for them to contact you.....!

Given the issues I had with a refund in March about a First Choice flight from Puerto Plata, I'm not sure I would fly with Tui / Thomson / First Choice again.... it certainly giving me a very poor impression.

hippotamus
23rd Jul 2008, 15:24
Had a similar thing with B&Q a while back , where our complaint was with the complaints dept. We found that a letter outlining the whole catalogue of problems (7 pages logged in date order) sent registered post to the home address of every member of the board of directors worked. Of course we added the cost of this to our compensation claim.

c2lass
23rd Jul 2008, 16:58
I would totally agree with hippo in that you should send a letter recorded delivery as emails tend to get lost in that big black hole in cyber space!

hippotamus
23rd Jul 2008, 21:19
It was a very nice feeling when talking to the muppet on the phone , who denied receiving our letter, to clarify their name and then point out that they were the one who signed for it :)

wub
24th Jul 2008, 15:19
I had occasion to complain last year to a major UK tour operator. The complaint was that the transport to transfer us from our hotel to the airport, scheduled for 05:00, failed to arrive and as a result I was forced to take a taxi at a cost of some £50. I further complained that as result of the delay in getting to the airport I was unable to use the executive lounge that I had booked and paid for.

In my complaint I requested a refund of the taxi fare, backed by a receipt, since they had failed to provide the agreed transport.

After a six week delay, I received the following (I have removed the name of the tour operator. The formatting is as it arrived by e-mail):

Thank you for your email regarding your recent holiday with us. I was very
sorry to
learn that not all aspects of the holiday met with your expectations.

We strive to offer the best possible quality of holidays and
service, and
it is disappointing to learn that we fell short on this occasion.

I have now taken the time to read through your email and note all the
points you
have raised. I can fully appreciate that there were certain parts of the
holiday that
have caused you disappointment, and would like to reassure you that we do
take
customer feedback very seriously and do our utmost to rectify and prevent
any
further problems for future customers. We will therefore make your
comments
known to the relevant members of staff both here and overseas.

We thank you for bringing these concerns to our attention and will continue
to be
positively working towards ensuring that all aspects of the holiday we
offer meet our
customers' needs.

Thank you once again for writing to us as feedback from our returning
customers is
invaluable to future planning and monitoring existing holidays.

Yours sincerely

Customer Services

I e-mailed back expressing my disgust that they had failed in every way to address my complaint and promised that in future they would be my last choice of holiday company. Frankly life is too short to get embroiled in the kind of nonsense these people are capable of generating, so I let it go.

c2lass
24th Jul 2008, 16:42
Wub

What appalling service and a pathetic response to your complaint.

Unfortunately though, that is what they wanted, you basically to go away. In other words they got off with it. The staff member dealing with the complaint will not be in the slightest bit interested whether you return as a customer or not. Sad but true.

I would have pursued this right to the bitter end, taking free legal advice as well. Even if it was for only £10, it is the principal of the matter and the fact that nobody is taking ownership when things go wrong.

A couple of years ago I had a minorish complaint with one of the big TO. We had booked a rail holiday in Switzerland and our return flight to Zurich from Aberdeen were via Amsterdam with KLM. When we received our tickets from our Travel Agent it informed us that we must confirm our return flights 72 hours before leaving. I spoke to the TO rep the day before we needed to do this and she said she had never heard of this and that the TA was "scaremongering" I asked her to check it out and she said she would contact her Head Office and let me know the next day. When I saw her the next day there was no mention of this so I asked her again and she replied "Oh yes I contacted HO and you do not need to reconfirm your flights" I could tell instantly she was lying.

Needless to say, got to ZRH to check in 8 hours before our flight from AMS to ABZ to be told that the flight is full and only one seat left and nothing could be done until we got to AMS. So a very stressful flight, and at AMS the KLM staff were just not interested and basically said we do this all the time, you will just need to wait at the gate. To cut a long story short, we both did get on the flight and only knew we would be on the flight 10 mins before departure. We didn't get to sit together which caused some stress to me as I am not particularly fond of flying. The moral of the story, the flight should have been confirmed by the TO!!

However, I wrote a complaint letter to the TO and fortunately I was lucky enough to have an email contact for a senior executive. I really thought they would just brush me off after all I wasn't out of pocket, however I did get a nice apologetic reply and a cheque for £50 which was totally unexpected but a very nice gesture.

deep_south_gb
25th Jul 2008, 12:27
quick update - my initial email has been replied to, and I have been asked to send a letter to them with the details and the boarding passes.

No mention of a reply to my other points in the email to them.

So the process so far has been:
1 - Thomsonlfy make a mistake at check-in
2 - I have to call the call centre
3 - they tell me to email webrelations
4 - I email webrelations
5 - they tell to send them a letter.

Would it not have been more efficient if:
a - check-in at Malaga had given me £10
b - check-in at Malaga had told me to write a letter

Re the other poster with the missed pick up - that happened to us and another party at Ibiza a few years ago; the travel company didn't have reps on the coaches; the bus pulled up at 3:00am (pick up scheduled at 3:20am), and drove on immediately. When we got a taxi to the airport, the rep told me that "as she couldn't prove I was lying" she would give me a refund on the spot - nice customer relations, even for 4:00am!