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I booked a small hotel (small due to non-availability of regular hotels) in Mannhiem, Germany and I could not go to the conference because I was physically not fit and had to go to the emergency for pain. When I requested the hotel, my words in the hotel booking request form were "please book the room from so and so date...." and at the end "please let me know if this is possible". After that I never confirmed that I am accepting their offer of the room.

Now they are asking me to pay for full stay otherwise they will take legal action against me. They are asking the full 330€ for all the days, which I never accepted their offer. They have nothing that I accepted their offer. They are also saying "we have sent you confirmation along with the conditions." To me it seems that, when one does not confirm their booking in either paying or by written mail, how can hotel say you have booked and must pay?

Anyone with a hotel website can write my name and book in my name with email ID and if I trash that mail thinking as junk, I will have to pay. This does not seems right.


Here's the sequence of events:

  1. My request in the hotel booking form via website: "Please book a room.....please let me know if this is possible?" They do not have calendar in the website where you can choose dates, but you have to write the message directly in order to enquire or book, in the same page.

  2. They sent confirmation, but I never signed, accepted, paid or anything else. No phone or mail to them to inform my approval. Their ressponse was in German, I had in English, and that mail contained cancellation details and several other things.

  3. To the emergency room for my pain, changed all the plans.

  4. Around booked dates, got a call from hotel saying you are supposed to come, I said no, I did not send you any acceptance for your offer.

  5. They said, you have to pay, we do not need your acceptance.

  6. After three months, now getting mail that you have to pay or else legal action.

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    Isn't "please book the room" an offer, and their response an acceptance? If I am just inquiring about terms, without meaning to actually book the room, I write something like "Do you have a room available for .... and what would you charge?", not "please book the room". – Patricia Shanahan Jul 1 '16 at 15:09
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    You said "I booked a small hotel..." which sounds like you already booked the room and you made your inquiry about the availability in the wrong section. Based on this assumption from your question it sounds like you will need the take legal action to get yourself out but based on how the transaction went down, the hotel did nothing wrong. – LampPost Jul 1 '16 at 15:28
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    After you requested a booking with the words "please book the room," surely they wrote back with some kind of confirmation acknowledging that it was booked? Did that confirmation mention a cancellation policy? As far as I can see, you made an offer to them and they accepted it. There's no reason why they should wait for you to confirm it again. – Zach Lipton Jul 1 '16 at 17:16
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    If you hadn't missed the conference, surely you would have expected the room to be reserved for you? You askied them to "Please book the room...", so they did. If you had asked them "Do you have a room for...", then your argument would have more weight. – Johnny Jul 1 '16 at 23:48
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    What would you have expected to have happened if you had not been ill? Would you have expected the room to be available had you arrived for the conference? – Berwyn Jul 3 '16 at 19:57
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Based on the sequence of events you posted, here's the problem.

You seem to believe that there should have been a step #2.5: you write back and accept their offer. The problem, in my opinion, is that you can't have it both ways: had you shown up at the hotel at step #3 instead of getting ill, you would have rightly expected them to have a room ready for you. And if there was no room and they said "but you didn't accept," you likely would have been quite upset.

So now, you want to argue that you never really booked the room because you couldn't get there, but the room should have been held for you if you did get there. That does not seem like a winning argument.

Had you, at step #2, immediately written back and said "oh no; that costs too much" or something similar, I'd be right there with you. But once they sent you a confirmation of your booking, especially one that included notice of the cancellation policy (and you've got Google Translate to help with a language barrier), the onus would be on you to immediately cancel the reservation if you didn't want it.

As a practical matter, if you live on the other side of the world, it may well not be worth it for them to pursue this in any way beyond sending threatening emails. But it appears to me that you owe whatever their cancellation policy says you owe, or at least that you'd be relying on their goodwill to waive the charge as the result of your medical emergency. Some hotels, if you contact them as soon as humanly possible and explain you're in the hospital (even sending proof perhaps), might have waived the charges. It's likely too late for that now though.

Lastly, if you had travel insurance, this is what it is usually for (subject to the policy limits and conditions): covering non-refundable travel expenses in the event of an illness that makes it impossible to travel.

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    In some countries, you can get a default judgement - in which case there would be an outstanding issue against this person in Germany, which may hinder future travels or requests for visas etc. So its not really practical to just leave it be. – Burhan Khalid Jul 3 '16 at 21:37
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Based on your sequence of events: Yes, from step 2 onwards you have undergone a contract with the hotel. Your step 1 was ‘please book a room’. Their step 2 was ‘we confirm your booking’. In my economy and law classes back in high school, step one would have been termed offer and step 2 acceptance of offer. As per the BGB (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, German civil code), this is a contract and must be fulfilled.

They fulfilled their part of the contract: They kept a room ready for you for the duration of your stay. You did not turn up (but turning up is not part of the contract). However, you attempt to refuse to fulfil your part of the contract.

If I were you, I would pay. If you don’t you’ll probably get taken to court where you’ll lose with flying colours. And you’ll have to pay the court fees, too.

  • +1 and totally agree (see my answer for an even more detailed legal perspective). I especially agree with the recommendation in the last paragraph! – mts Jul 3 '16 at 22:34
  • You'll probably get taken to court? For €300? Sounds like a huge waste of resources for the hotel, especially considering the fact the while the OP could be ordered to pay this or that, that's note quite the same as actually having to pay. In practice, it will quite difficult to actually get the money. – Relaxed Jul 13 '16 at 20:23
  • @Relaxed possibly, probably, I don’t know, IANAL ^^' It’s my understanding anyways~ ^^' – Jan Jul 27 '16 at 19:53
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I am not a lawyer but...

When you book a room, and the booking is accepted, you have entered a contract. If you don't follow through on that contract the hotel is entitled to cancellation fees according to the contract.

The hotel sent you a confirmation of booking. If you had not meant to book you should have corrected them at that stage. But by your own words you did intend to make a booking.

If you knew you were not going to use the booking you should have cancelled it immediately. Many hotels are generous if people take the trouble to cancel.

Stop wasting your own time and money and pay them the fees.

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    "If you knew you were not going to use the booking you should have cancelled it immediately." Exactly. If the hotel wrote back with a confirmation with a price and terms and conditions and you replied immediately by saying "actually no I don't accept that," you'd have a reasonable argument that you never entered into an agreement. But once you have your reservation sitting on their books taking up a room someone else could use, you likely need to abide by the conditions you agreed to when you made the booking. – Zach Lipton Jul 1 '16 at 20:56
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The other answers (to whom +1) have cast light on the moral aspect of your question and I agree with them, you can not expect service (even if not used) at no risk/cost for you. I mean, you got one of the last rooms in town because of the conference and they likely lost on big cash because of your no-show. During big events cancellation terms often are more strict than usual, requiring full payment in case of no-show / cancellation instead of first night as often the case.

However this question has to be decided by its legal aspect. I'm not a lawyer nor an expert but I found this interesting enough to look it up:

  • Since you made the booking with a German hotel by sending them an email, I suppose German law is applicable
  • The German Tourism Consortium (Deutscher Tourismusverband, a tourism lobby organization) has published the following statement on their website. Let me spare you the German text, below is my brief summary/translation. Emphasis is mine.

A written booking confirmation that follows on a room request is a binding reservation. You have a contract, even if a room price was not mentioned, in that case you accept the usual price. This is based on a court ruling (LG Frankfurt am Main vom 18.05.2005, Az: 2-01 S 53/04)

  • The same site is kind enough to point out that a binding reservation is binding, i.e. you can not just cancel it, but are bound to the terms and conditions you accepted.

This is basically the a bit more sophisticated confirmation of what @Jan has already said in his answer (big +1) about contracts in Germany. By now it should be clear to you, that they do have a legal basis against you. What follows is my opinion on your particular case, but not legal advice.

  • You made a booking request and got a confirmation from them. That is as clear as can be by the court ruling that you have a binding contract. Doesn't matter if it was in German, you did not object to them.
  • It is pretty clear from what you say that you made the booking and were willing to accept before your emergency, everything else is hypothetical and you would be lying to them if you claimed otherwise. Not a smart move IMHO if they already threaten with legal action.
  • The exact claim is determined by the terms and conditions you received in their booking confirmation mail. They can claim up to the full amount minus a few percent for expenses saved by them.

You will also find similar information in this law forum and this homepage of a lawyer (both in German).

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    I’m leaning towards ‘they can claim the full amount plus a few percent interest’, so to be on the safe side I wouldn’t expect any deduction from saved expenses. That is, unless you have a good lawyer ;) – Jan Jul 3 '16 at 22:40
  • The site I link to says minus, but at this point I agree with you the most intelligent thing to do is to just fulfill their claim to avoid legal action which would only cost more and will very likely be lost by the OP. @Jan BTW good work answering on here, welcome to Travel SE :) – mts Jul 3 '16 at 22:44
  • Welcome? =D Been around for a few days already ;) Have we not met before? ;) – Jan Jul 3 '16 at 22:46
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    Seen you been active on many SE sites but on Travel for less than two months and been impressively quick in building up rep. I have already noted and upvoted many of your posts on here and just wanted to say "servus" :) ping me in chat anytime if you wish to chat more, but for tonight I have to get some sleep @Jan – mts Jul 3 '16 at 22:51
  • I was damn lucky. Answered a few HNQs before they became HNQs xD – Jan Jul 3 '16 at 22:56
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You explicitly asked them to book a room for you. They sent you an email confirming that they had done this. You are now claiming that "Please book a room for me" meant "Please tell me if there is a room available." That is nonsense.

You owe them the money.

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