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My father made a reservation via booking.com for an apartment stay at seaside as a surprise present for me. Unfortunately, we aren't able to travel on the days that he booked. He cancelled the reservations immediately, only a few hours after making them, and three months in advance of the booked dates.

However, this was the first time he saw that apartment had a "full charge cancellation policy". He contacted booking.com who said they'd contact the owner to see if there is anything they can do, but he's not yet received an answer. He also asked if he can cancel the cancellation, someone else could go, but they said no.

The booking was made with a debit card that is nearly empty and he doesn’t need it for anything else. What are his options? I think he is prepared to go to court over this but he is so upset I'm realy worried for his health. He is 70 and has already had 2 heart attacks.

We live in the European Union and the apartment is also in the EU.

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    Hotels offer you a cheaper price if you book uncancellable. If you take the cheaper price, you take the risk too. Why do you think it should be illegal to offer you to take the risk yourself for less money? He could have booked the slightly higher cancellable price - but he didn't. – Aganju Mar 7 '17 at 13:52
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    Not really a solution but it might help to understand how it works: low fares for transportations or rates for hotels have conditions like that to prevent cannibalizing profit from higher rates. That way, an hotel can get business from price-conscious people while still charging more from those who can afford it or value the flexibility (it's called price discrimination). Letting someone else use the room obviously does not cause a direct loss but ff they would let you change or transfer a booking without limitation, it would devalue their more expensive rate. – Relaxed Mar 7 '17 at 13:52
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    @MadHatter in most jurisdictions, accommodation for specific periods of performance is exempted from the statutory right of withdrawal period. For example, in the UK: gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/… (see the exemptions section and accommodation). – Moo Mar 7 '17 at 14:24
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    Since you're in the EU you are safe, just take all the money out of the card so that the card cannot be charged. You can then ignore any debts, because of good customer protection laws we have here. This doesn't mean that your father is legally correct, but in the EU the owner of a debt has far less legal possibilities to force someone to pay. In the US this is totally different, there the laws protect the business owner far more than the customer. – Count Iblis Mar 8 '17 at 8:34
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    @CountIblis oh my god that is terrible advice, stop giving it. The debt can be pursued, it doesnt just go away because you want it to - your credit score can be hit and the debt can be passed to debt collectors. Even the EU directive on distance contracts doesnt support the consumer here. – Moo Mar 8 '17 at 15:13
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Unfortunately he has no options, the cancellation terms are quite plain and straightforward, regardless of the period of notice given. If you aren't willing to abide by the conditions, then you shouldn't book under them.

If you attempt to report this as fraud, the website and hotel can show that you agreed to the terms and the card issuer won't refund your money.

A court is extremely unlikely to do anything in this situation - you would spend more money on lawyers than a positive outcome.

If the card fails, then the charge can be sent to debt collection, as its a valid debt.

I'm sorry, but thats the way it is.

Edit: MadHatter added in the comments that the EUs Distance Contracts Directive may help here as it has an inbuilt cooling off period during which the consumer can withdraw from the contract without penalty.

But unfortunately, as he also noted, accommodation is actually exempted from that cooling off period:

  1. Articles 4, 5, 6 and 7 (1) shall not apply:

...

  • to contracts for the provision of accommodation, transport, catering or leisure services, where the supplier undertakes, when the contract is concluded, to provide these services on a specific date or within a specific period;
  • There is no need for any refund as they haven't charged anything yet. The payment terms were to pay in cash upon arrival. – Kaderin Mar 7 '17 at 14:02
  • @Kaderin then its a debt to pay, hence my second to last sentence - if you are lucky the card payment may bounce and the hotel may decide it isnt worth pursuing it, but dont count on that. – Moo Mar 7 '17 at 14:04
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    I'm not. That is why I'm preparing. I consolted the lawyer at my company and he said that under EU law, standard contract terms used by traders have to be fair. This doesn't change if they're called "terms and conditions" or are part of a detailed contract that you actually have to sign. The contract is not allowed to create an imbalance between your rights and obligations as a consumer and the rights and obligations of sellers and suppliers. I'm writing to European Consumer Centres Network - for help with cross-border disputes to see what they will say – Kaderin Mar 7 '17 at 14:10
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    @Kaderin wheres the imbalance here? The cancellation terms were made available up front and they were agreed to as part of the package. These cancellation terms are not rare and they havent been successfully challenged in court yet. I myself lost some money because of full-payment terms with Premier Inn several years ago when I had to move my wedding and had booked my parents in on "cheap" rooms, so I have been through the same situation. – Moo Mar 7 '17 at 14:13
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    @Kaderin I've used Booking.com and I know the cancellation terms are front and centre when booking, they aren't hidden. And the fact that it was the only room on offer at the time doesn't have any bearing on this at all, he could have booked another hotel completely. – Moo Mar 7 '17 at 14:34
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No, there is no any alternative for this..You should be careful before doing the reservations..because there is clearly written about the terms and conditions..so if you complain against the site also then still I do not think that they will refund your money..

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Firstly, please tell your father not to worry and put a strain on his health. Since you've mentioned that he used a debit card without much balance and also that this transaction hasn't posted to the account, they're in a strong bargaining position.

There are various things you can do at this point, the easiest being cancelling this card and getting a replacement issued. You can report to your bank that the card may have been compromised or lost.

If you didn't want to do that or couldn't do that and for some reason the merchant decided to pursue the matter, they would need to do so in a Small Claims Court in a jurisdiction which should be specified in your booking and cancellation document. This is not a criminal matter and no penalties can be imposed on your father, except for the amount the court decides. It is extremely unlikely that any reasonable court will find your father in the wrong given these circumstances. It is also highly likely that the merchant in this question can't pursue a case against your father but needs to go through the arbitration process that they agreed to on that site. See Section 13 here, this may not exactly be the same but it will be on those lines. So in all practical terms any formal legal proceedings are out of the question.

Please note this is not legal advice and shouldn't be treated as such. Please do share your experience with us of the outcome, so that it helps others in a similar situation.

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    Actually, in most European jurisdictions, the claimant doesn't even need to go to court or arbitration - they can pass it to a debt collector, put a bad notice on your credit report and pursue you without ever involving a court. If they want to have the ability to send bailiffs then they need to involve a court. Its also likely that the court would find against the father, as the terms and conditions are proven industry ones and the hotel and booking site can prove the father agreed to them. Cancelling the card doesnt make the debt go away. – Moo Mar 8 '17 at 8:39
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    "You can report to your bank that the card may have been compromised or lost." - you are right when you say "this is not legal advice" ! Advocating fraud is kinda frowned-upon on this site, I think... – AakashM Mar 8 '17 at 9:27
  • @Moo it's a lot hard if OP lives abroad. – JonathanReez Mar 8 '17 at 15:10
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    @JonathanReez OP has already said hes in the EU and my comment isnt limited to one jurisdiction. – Moo Mar 8 '17 at 15:14

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