Kathryn Liston - The Smarter Traveller

Consumer Expert & Globetrotter

Book safely online

More than 1,000 holidaymakers lose £1.5 million in online scams every year. Make sure you are not one of them.

1) Pay by credit card – even if it is only the deposit

This is a no brainer, yet every year people lose their money because they have been coerced into paying by bank transfer. Paying by credit card provides protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if your company goes bust or a villa owner, for example, fails to provide the accommodation you have booked. In this instance, the credit card company is jointly liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation. It applies to transactions over £100 and less than £30,000.

Even if you only pay the deposit by credit card, you will still be able to make a claim.

However, there are a few grey areas. Some purchases bought through a third party such as a travel agent rather than directly with a villa owner or airline may not qualify for protection. Where possible, make credit card payments direct to the company supplying the goods.

2) Pay by debit card if you don’t have a credit card

Although debit card payments do not enjoy legal protection,  you can make a claim through the chargeback scheme, which participating banks subscribe to. If you do not get the holiday advertised, you may be able to get your money back from their bank, although there are no guarantees.

3) Speak to the villa owner or company

Make sure you speak to the company, don’t rely on an email exchange. Many people have lost out this way. Telephone the villa owner or agent to ensure the company is legitimate and ask lots of questions. Read the deposit policy and terms and conditions and clarify any points you are not happy with. Keep going back to the supplier until they answer your queries.

4) Check out online reviews

Google the company on the web for feedback. Read reviews from previous guests on the company’s website and other websites such as Tripadvisor (www.tripadvisor.co.uk) and the Review Centre (www.reviewcentre.com).

5) If it’s a ‘package’ holiday, check that it is protected

Package holidays are protected by an ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ License, whereas holidays where components such as a flight, hotel or car hire booked within 24 hours of each other through the same company or website enjoy protection under the Flight Plus scheme.  You should be given a certificate showing this after you have booked. This will prevent you from losing your money or being stranded abroad if the company goes bust. To search for a company’s ATOL visit www.caa.co.uk

For further information, check out Get Safe Online 

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