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I recently stayed in a hotel in London UK, which charged a higher amount than agreed on during the booking on their own online website. They refuse to address the issue in any way. As a foreigner, is there an Ombudsman or some consumer association like the BBB where I can send a complaint to, or do I need to go to court? And if so, which one?

In case this matters, the reservation was made through the website of the hotel, and prepaid immediately by credit card, the charges were made 20 days ago. I am not in the UK, and probably won't be in the UK for another couple months at least.

Specifics: The hotel quoted a price A in non-GBP, yet charged a price B in GBP. Unlike websites like booking and expedia, neither did the hotel state a second price in GBP, nor did they have a disclaimer that the actual price may differ from the stated price A. I understand that some people on this forum agree with this practice, but in the UK (and many other countries) this happens to be illegal. The point of this question is not to discuss if the UK should change their laws, but to point out what a consumer should do in this situation.

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    @Peter Credit card company can withdraw the charge or have the dispute with the hotel themselves. – Karlson Feb 18 '15 at 20:35
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    What was the 'chosen currency' that you showed the price in? What was the exchange rate between that currency and UK pounds, both on the day you made the booking and the day your credit card was charged? – DJClayworth Feb 18 '15 at 21:15
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    When you checked out, and gave them your credit card, was the charge you signed for / entered your pin for in GBP, or in your home currency? (If the hotel changed the currency for you to your own currency, there would've been a markup/charge for that) – Gagravarr Feb 19 '15 at 0:14
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    Legal or not, it does not seem to be an overcharge but at most a misleading advertisement and/or poorly managed booking process. To the extent that the GBP price was really quoted nowhere, I can see why it would be considered unfair but framing it as an overcharge does not seem very helpful. Your initial question was misleading and incomplete and you knew this full well because you felt the need to include other details. So -1 from me until you include the most salient details in the question itself. – Relaxed Apr 25 '15 at 12:12
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    Feel free to downvote. A price was advertised and agreed on in the booking confirmation, and a higher price was charged to the credit card. That's an overcharge in my vocabulary. It turns out the details were neither relevant to the question nor to the answer, but I included them for completeness. Your assertion that I intentionally asked a misleading question is insulting, wrong, and plain trolling. Nevertheless, I appreciate you stating a reason for the downvote. – Peter Apr 25 '15 at 14:52
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Based on the details, the hotel didn't overcharge you at all. The hotel charged you the amount they stated (admittedly in GBP, but I suspect the amount that at standard rates is the same as in your chosen currency). Your card issuer charged you currency conversion costs (and possibly other fees). It's worth being very careful which cards you use abroad - some are great, some rip you off.

If the hotel also charged any kind of additional fees that they didn't mention, or treated you differently to how it was advertised, then you have two routes you can go. You can approach trading standards to report the false advertising etc. You will probably have to Google a bit for the trading standards department of the correct jurisdiction (they are local). They may choose to investigate your case and can take action against the hotel. This probably won't net you any reimbursement personally though. Also, if you booked through a third party website (e.g. hotels.com, expedia, etc) then it's not the hotel's fault. If you want the money back personally, then you could write them letters (record these!) asking for the money back. If they refuse (keep copies of all correspondence!) you can take them to the Small Claims court. The cost of representation as a foreigner is probably going to be more than you get back however.

  • Fair point re: currency. Does a booking confirmation constitute a contract however? And what are the terms of said contract? (You'd be on more solid ground I think if you'd paid in advance - but then presunably this would then have never come up) – CMaster Feb 20 '15 at 8:46
  • Ah, now that is interesting, and very much seems misleading (I'd for some reason thought that you'd booked in advance, then paid at the hotel). I'd probably start by raising it with your CC provider then, followed by mentioning it to trading standards (they won't think it's important, but they may tell the hotel to knock it off) – CMaster Feb 20 '15 at 10:46
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The issue got resolved thanks to @pnuts and @CMaster.

In short, I think the very first comment from pnuts - which I would accept as the answer if pnuts were to post it as an answer - fully answers the question:

  • First raise it with the Hotel because it may be easiest
  • Credit Card Company next, because they can impose a short time cut-off for disputed charges, putting pressure and the burden of proof on the vendor
  • Trading Standards - issues can be raised through an online form on Advice Guide
  • Small Claims Court works on claims of up to 10'000£ and costs a fee depending on the claim amount, which is why it is the last option. The minimum fee is currently 35 £.

I actually skipped the Credit Card Company and went straight to Trading Standards. Advice Guide is the entity that handles the online reporting of incidents to Trading Standards. Issues are reported online through Advice Guide to Citizens Advice who then forward the issue to Trading Standards. Even tough I skipped the Credit Card Company, the response I got when I raised the issue with Citizens Advice mentions the Credit Card Company as an option.

Advice Guide also has very thorough information about what is and what isn't allowed for businesses in the UK. After drilling down a bit I found explicit information about the laws the Hotel is in violation of.

I then raised the issue with Trading Standards through the online form at Advice Guide as a general consumer query. I also sent the Hotel an email stating the specific laws they were in violation of (actually the Acts, on which the laws are based), and that this will be the final email on the matter since I am now forced to resolve the issue through legal means.

Both approaches worked, surprisingly within hours.

The hotel refunded the difference in full once they were informed of the specific laws they were in violation of, and agreed to make the necessary changes to their platform to be in compliance with the law.

Citizens Advice responded within hours with a thorough answer. I think the answer is relevant for everyone having any dispute a UK Hotel regarding pricing and is thus highly relevant to the question:

Thank you for your enquiry to the Citizens Advice consumer service. Your reference number for this enquiry is [redacted]

We understand from your email that you have experienced issues with prices displayed when booking a hotel with a trader in the UK.

Your rights and obligations

When a consumer enters into a contract with a trader by means of a distance communication (telephone, internet, mail order etc.) without any prior face to face negotiations, they will generally have rights under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. These regulations, which we abbreviate to the ‘ICAC’ regulations, came in to effect on 13th June 2014.

Under these regulations a consumer is only liable to pay for any goods, services or ancillary contracts which they have been made aware before making a buying decision. In addition, a consumer should not have to opt out of an additional purchase or cost and can only decided to opt into any additional products a trader is willing to provide. Therefore, when a cost is added to a consumer’s purchase without their consent; they would have the right to withhold payment; or seek a refund if the payment has already been taken by the trader. In short, a consumer should be fully aware of all costs relating to their purchase before they make a buying decision and decide to pay the trader for the products or services they have selected.

If no such information has been provided; the consumer could hold the trader in breach of contract and pursue them for full refund.

You can read more about the ICAC Regulations here.

In addition, if you have paid by credit or debit card, you may be able to seek a refund through the card issuer if they have a 'chargeback' scheme. You should contact the bank, specifically mentioning the 'chargeback' scheme, and asking that the matter is resolved in a timely manner.

Your next steps

At this stage we would advise to discuss the matter further with the trader, referring to the information above, as it is always advisable to try to negotiate an outcome that is acceptable to yourself and the trader before taking any further steps. If this does not resolve the matter, you could take a more formal approach and write to the trader. The letter should outline any relevant events regarding this issue and make it clear what you expect from the trader and why. It should also give the trader a reasonable time to resolve the matter.

You can find guidance for how to set out your letter on our website.

We would also suggest that any letter is sent by recorded delivery (or an equivalent) and that you keep a copy – this may help you prove that you have contacted the trader and tried to resolve the matter amicably, and also you can use the ‘Recorded Signed For’ label the post office will supply you with to confirm that the trader has received the letter.

What we will do

[redacted] Hotel may be in breach of the law for not supplying pre-contract information. As such, the information you have provided will be passed to Trading Standards for further consideration and, if necessary, further action. Trading Standards may contact you for further information if they deem it necessary. If you would like to discuss this further please call us on [redacted] or reply to this email.

  • Great you solved your own issue. Looking forward to hearing the final result. – user13044 Feb 20 '15 at 13:08

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