December has arrived and ???tis the season to be jolly.
Unfortunately for some, an eagerly awaited holiday may turn sour when the accommodation isn't what was expected or the guest is hit with hidden costs.
What are your legal rights as a guest on holiday?
You should first take a look at the terms and conditions of the accommodation provider, which you would have agreed to (although may not have read) at the time of booking.
What happens when the room you booked isn't the one you get?
The Australian Consumer Law provides some protection, requiring the accommodation provider guarantee:
- the accommodation matches the advertised description - it can't be false or misleading; (the apartment advertised with stunning beach views should have more than a glimpse of the water), and;
- it is safe and of a reasonable quality (the kitchen shouldn't reveal what the last guests had for dinner).
You won't be compensated for minor problems that can be easily rectified within a reasonable time. If the issue can't be fixed then you can choose between a refund or continue to stay in the room and be financially compensated.
What if your personal items go missing or are damaged in the hotel?
Each state varies, however, most have a monetary limit on the amount the accommodation provider will be liable (for example in Queensland it is $250 a day, and NSW and Victoria $100 for the duration of your stay). The exception to these limits is where the provider is at fault.
What if the hotel charges additional fees?
Any extra costs like breakfast or credit card fees must be disclosed to you in the advertisement and before being charged, if not, you are likely to have grounds not to pay them.
What if something unexpected happens and you need to cancel your accommodation?
Again the terms and conditions will outline your right to cancel and whether any fees will be charged, generally your booking will be subject to this. If you are going to be charged, you should try to negotiate other outcomes like changing the dates or obtaining a credit.
How much can be charged upon cancellation?
The law says the fee cannot be excessive or unfair, this will take into account what the cancellation has cost the business. For example, cancellation on the same day you intended to check in would likely allow the provider to charge the full amount, compared with cancelling a few months in advance.
Some online accommodation sites offer cheaper accommodation prices in return for prepaying the full amount of the accommodation, and many of these require you to agree to lose the full amount paid on cancellation.
If you take out travel insurance when you book your holiday, generally this will cover any costs you incur caused by cancelling because of unforeseen circumstances.
If you can't sort the issue out with the accommodation provider directly, contact your state's consumer affairs department or the ACCC.
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Alison and Jillian Barrett are both principals at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. The Queensland sisters are experienced lawyers and passionate social justice campaigners. Alison juggles motherhood, as well as heading up a major legal practice area. Younger sister Jillian also leads a team of lawyers and sports a double degree in Law and Journalism.