Vacations are expected to be fun, memorable and relaxing. During the holidays, we escape our daily routines and stress for a short while. But to take full advantage of our holidays, they have to go smoothly. Unfortunately problems do arise and the best way to prevent them from ruining our holiday is to know our consumer rights in advance.
How we deal with problems can, in fact, determine whether our vacation is ruined. Knowing our legal rights and the type of remedies we are entitled to seek from our suppliers or holiday planners will give us the confidence to complain and seek those remedies without unnecessary delays.
There are basically two types of vacations that we consumers can choose to purchase. We can either choose to plan our own vacation and book all the travel services we need directly from different suppliers, or we can choose to purchase our vacation through a travel agency.
If we choose to book our travel services ourselves, such as flights, accommodation, car rental, excursions, etc., it is important that we keep all documentation relating to the reservations we make. These documents will be required as proof in the event of a problem during our holiday. For example, if the hotel booked does not have the promised and advertised facilities, we may be required to present evidence showing the deviation when seeking a remedy or compensation.
Vacation problems can also arise with a professionally organized package tour purchased from a travel agency. If this happens, the agency with which the holiday was booked is responsible for providing redress or compensation.
In the event of a problem, our first responsibility as a consumer is to immediately inform the agency or its representative of the problem encountered and to request a solution. At this stage, the holiday organizer is obliged to provide an appropriate solution, unless such a solution is impossible or entails disproportionate costs for the agency taking into account the type of problems encountered and the value of the travel services concerned.
In situations where the agency cannot resolve the issue(s) or cannot make other appropriate arrangements, then as travelers we have the right to make our own arrangements and seek reimbursement of any additional expenses incurred. If alternative arrangements are not a viable option, then we would be entitled to a reduction in price commensurate with the value of the travel services not provided and compensation for damages suffered as a result of breaches suffered during the stay.
When holiday issues are not resolved within a reasonable time, our next step is to put our complaint in writing so that we have proof that we complained while we were still on holiday and gave the agency the opportunity to sort things out. It is also advisable to collect evidence of the problems encountered, for example by taking photos or videos. Additionally, if due to the issues we have incurred additional expenses, all relevant receipts should be retained as evidence.
When filing our claim for compensation with the travel agency, it is necessary that we also present a copy of the sales contract with the details of the stay booked as proof of the claimed discrepancy.
When claiming financial compensation, we must remember that the agency’s obligation is to provide compensation of an equivalent value to what was originally due and what was provided. In other words, we cannot claim the cost of the entire stay because we had a problem with our hotel room or because one of the excursions was not carried out as originally agreed. Therefore, it’s important that we don’t let the problems we encounter ruin our whole holiday.
Additional financial compensation may be claimed for moral damages
Additional financial compensation may be claimed for moral damages, which include inconvenience or stress suffered as a result of the problems encountered. However, we are not entitled to claim compensation if the holiday organizer proves that we were in any way responsible for the lack of conformity, or if the fault is attributed to a third party unrelated to the provision of the travel service, or is due to an unavoidable fact and extraordinary circumstances.
If our claim for compensation or prorated reimbursement is not satisfied by the travel agency, our next step is to process our claim through the MCCAA Office of Consumer Affairs for conciliation and settlement at the friendly. If the holiday organizer or supplier from whom we purchased the travel service is not based locally but operates from another EU Member State, then our complaint should be submitted to the European Consumer Center from Malta.
Odette Vella is Director, Information and Research Branch, MCCAA
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