Here are some of the common issues that travel and accommodation businesses should be wary of.
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Online booking agents or websites have their own terms and conditions in relation to booking fees, cancellations and deposits which may sometimes conflict with yours. It is important to give your customers clear information about relevant terms and conditions to avoid disputes.
Consumers may rely on representations made by online booking providers like quality rating, room type or views so to minimise the risk of a dispute, you should make sure that you have an agreement that clearly sets out the terms and conditions with the online booking provider. It should also be clear who the consumer should contact to cancel or change their booking. You need to make sure that the images of rooms have titles indicating the room type and that quality ratings are clearly disclosed as self-rated.
There are also group buying websites that sell coupons or vouchers with discounts. Some vouchers come with a condition that a minimum number of buyers take up the deal. Common issues with this practice include incomplete supply, non-supply and difficulty in booking and redeeming vouchers.
If you want to offer these deals, you should consider the potential demand from advertising through group buying websites and whether you can deliver these services reasonably and on time. You may consider limiting the deal offered so you don’t restrict your ability to serve both new and regular customers. Coordinate with the group buying website to make sure the terms and conditions are fair and clearly expressed and that you can deliver the services as advertised. Price representations should be accurate as well.
For example, if you’re going to offer a voucher for a beach view room that’s valid for use within 12 months, you need to make sure that there are enough open slots for both the vouchers offered and your regular customers to avoid being booked out for the entire period. If you overbook, it is required by law that the exact accommodation is supplied or fully refunded to the customer. You can offer the customer an alternative arrangement but he or she can’t be forced to accept this.
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There are also specific provisions in the law that apply to telemarketing sales for travel and accommodation. Salespeople who make unsolicited contact with consumers to sell must comply with the limits on the days and times when they can call or visit and what they are required to tell the consumer. They should also comply with the requirements for the sales agreement and restrictions on when they can take payment and supply the products or services. Even if you have a third-party vendor to do the telemarketing for your business, you are still responsible for this compliance as contractors are only considered as your dealer or representative.
Another common issue is misrepresentation of accommodation. This is when the accommodation appears different from the advertisement. It is best to accurately advertise what the consumer will get. If there are rooms that have substantially different layouts or views, make sure it is clearly expressed in the advertisement. Whether a representation was misleading would depend on whether it would mislead a reasonable person within a group. The descriptions and photos should not mislead consumers about its quality, price, amenities or location so it may be helpful to put tags or titles on the photos.
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