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I am UK based and booked accommodation in Boston through Booking.com. The accommodation provider cancelled shortly before our stay was due to start and promised a full refund.

After waiting the 30 days prescribed by Booking.com, no refund has been forthcoming. I have chased this by telephone and email with the provider, and with calls to the Booking.com helpdesk, but no refund has been made.

What is the most effective strategy for pursuing a refund from an accommodation provider who cancelled our stay through Booking.com?

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2 Answers 2

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Contact whoever took your payment (and whose name is on the credit card charge). Inform them that you expect a full refund of YYY$ by XXX date and that you will initiate a charge back with the credit card company if you haven't received the payment by then. Keep a copy of the communication.

If the company tries to weasel and finger points to the other party, simply tell them. "You took my money, you will give it back". Whoever charged is also responsible for the refund.

If you haven't received the payment by XXX initiate a charge back with the credit company and provide them copies of communication (if asked).

Check with your bank right away what the process and time-outs for a charge back. Make sure that you can initiate the charge back before it times out (some banks set this as short as 3 months)

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    Note that, in some cases, the company that took your money may retaliate against you, for example by disabling your account. Don't try this with one of the big tech companies unless you're prepared to write the whole account off!
    – Kevin
    Sep 25, 2022 at 6:52
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    @EleventhDoctor I’m not sure if this would help much in your case but I’ve found that posting a (very) negative review on sites such as Trustpilot often elicits quick action
    – Traveller
    Oct 13, 2022 at 13:49
  • Thanks for engaging! Consumer advocates describe this as the nuclear option. I managed to get a refund through complaining, as I describe in my accepted answer. See: elliott.org/ultimate-consumer-guides-smart-travelers/… Oct 13, 2022 at 15:25
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I got refunded!

Advocacy organizations provide some good guidance about how to resolve this kind of consumer issue. I followed guidance given at Elliott.org.

At all times:

  • Keep a timeline of emails sent, telephone calls made, credit card charges etc. I did this with a table in a Word document, with emails and bills saved as PDFs embedded in the table as evidence.
  • Be scrupulously polite and direct in all communications, being clear that you expect a full refund immediately as the provider cancelled the accommodation. Do not make threats.

The following things make complaining to Booking.com quite difficult:

  • There is no published complaints process - you will be consistently directed back to their telephone help centre.
  • There is no published email address. If you email [email protected] you will receive an email autoreply indicating that the mailbox is not checked.
  • The very possibility of the problem I described seemed difficult for Booking.com to hear - customer service call takers kept saying "So, you cancelled your stay..." and I had to correct them "No, the accommodation provider cancelled the stay and provided no refund."

The path of escalation to a refund was as follows:

  1. As Booking.com suggest, contact the accommodation provider directly and inform them of your requirement that they refund you immediately.
  2. If no refund and no meaningful feedback are forthcoming, contact Booking.com via their online Help Centre. The call taker should agree to contact the accommodation provider, setting a deadline for payment.
  3. If no refund and no feedback are forthcoming, contact Booking.com via their online Help Centre again, giving them one more chance to resolve the issue.
  4. Become a polite nuisance via Social Media and Booking.com's regular requests for customer feedback. If feeding back on a telephone call, always give the call taker the highest rating (your argument is not with them) and Booking.com the lowest rating, and copy and paste in your message that your stay was cancelled and you were not refunded. If Booking.com agents engage you online, they will direct you to call the Help Centre. Decline to do this as you have already provided full details by this stage, and they should be resolving the issue. Booking.com agents may then recommend you DM them some information instead, which is acceptable and may lead to resolution.
  5. Email the regional director of Booking.com directly, using contact details here. Complain politely and directly, attaching your timeline document as evidence.

After step (5) I was contacted by Booking.com and a refund was arranged within 24 hours. I was paid in Booking.com credit, which you can withdraw to the payment card of your choice.

As answered elsewhere, I could have pursued a Credit Card dispute with the accommodation provider. This is discussed in this article as a 'nuclear option' to get repayment.

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