Can holiday accommodation providers cancel a booking?
Generally speaking, this will depend on what the accommodation provider’s terms and conditions (T&Cs) say. So, as a first step, you should always check the T&Cs of your booking or, if not available, the general T&Cs of the accommodation provider you booked with. These should generally be available online (on the accommodation provider’s website) and contained within any communications you have received from them (eg emails).
The T&Cs relevant to your booking may include terms that purport to let the business cancel your booking in certain situations. For example:
terms specifying that your booking is not confirmed when you click ‘book’, it is only confirmed when you receive a booking confirmation. This makes it easy for the business to ‘cancel’ the booking before this point (ie they can just never confirm it at all and so never form a contract with you)
force majeure type clauses. These are clauses that may limit the business’ obligations to you if a specified type of event occurs (eg an earthquake, fire, or flood) that is outside of their control. If this makes your booking unable to be fulfilled (eg because of damage to a hotel), the accommodation provider may be able to cancel your booking
What are my rights if my booking has been cancelled?
This will depend on whether your accommodation provider’s T&Cs allow them to cancel your booking.
If the T&Cs allow cancellations
If your accommodation provider has cancelled your booking in line with their T&Cs, you will often be entitled to:
rebook your stay for an alternative date
receive alternative accommodation (eg in an upgraded room or another hotel), or
receive a full refund
It will be up to you to decide which of the available options you wish to accept.
If rebooking your stay for an alternative date is an option, if you are happy to do this the accommodation provider should work with you to move your stay to an alternative date that works for you.
If you accept alternative accommodation that’s on offer, you will have to liaise with the accommodation provider. Note that any alternative accommodation should be of the same or of a higher standard than the accommodation you originally booked. You also shouldn’t have to pay any extra for the alternative accommodation – it will generally be down to the accommodation provider to cover additional costs. If the new accommodation costs less than the accommodation you originally booked, you may even be entitled to claim a refund for the difference in cost. You should speak to the accommodation provider about this and, where possible, request a copy of their refund policy to submit a claim.
If you accept a full refund, the accommodation provider should return the money you originally paid. Note that some accommodation providers may offer you a voucher instead of a refund. If you are happy with a voucher, you can accept it. However, if you are entitled to a refund, you do not have to accept a voucher and can instead ask for the money to be refunded via your original payment method.
If the T&Cs don’t allow cancellations
As a general rule, businesses cannot renege on a contract that they’ve entered into unless the contract itself includes a fair term specifying when and how they can do so. This means that, if the T&Cs applicable to your accommodation booking do not contain anything about the business’ right to cancel in the way that they’ve done so, they cannot legally do so.
If the business cancels your booking despite your T&Cs not giving them any right to do so, they may be in breach of contract and you may have access to various legal remedies. These include you being put back in the position (financially) that you would have been in had the breach not occurred.
As a first step, it’s a good idea to communicate further with the accommodation provider themselves to let them know that you believe they’ve breached their contract with you and have infringed your rights as a consumer by cancelling your booking. You can let them know that you’re planning to seek a legal remedy if the matter isn’t resolved. You should conduct this communication in writing to ensure you have a record of your attempts to resolve the issue, which could be useful if you take the matter further. In some cases, bringing the issue to the business’ attention in this way is enough to prompt them to offer you a solution, for example, a new or reinstated booking.
If unsuccessful, you may be able to take your complaint further through various trade bodies or other organisations, such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) (if the accommodation provider is an ABTA member) or Consumer Arbitration (an independent dispute resolution scheme). Alternatively, you could consider making a claim through the court system. If you decide to go this way you should consider seeking legal advice.
What if I have a different issue with my accommodation?
If you have any other issues with accommodation providers, for example, if the accommodation is not as described in an advertisement, you may have certain rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.