TUI and loveholidays have promised to review the information they provide when selling ‘low deposit’ holidays after criticism by consumer body Which?
In an investigation released today (Friday), Which? said TUI, loveholidays and On the Beach failed to adequately warn customers who’d secured holidays with ‘low deposits’ that they could be liable for further payments if they cancelled.
Which? said consumers often believe that they’d lose only their initial payment if they later cancelled their holiday, however this is simply the first instalment towards a larger, non-refundable deposit, and Which? said this fact should be clearly spelled out at the time of booking.
Researchers highlighted the case of TUI customer Michelle Simons from Northampton, who booked a family holiday to Bodrum in-store with an initial £150 deposit. She was shown a laminated card with TUI’s T&Cs, but the deposit payments weren’t explained.
She later received email confirmation explaining her payment plan, but assumed this was for the holiday balance, rather than a further, non-refundable, deposit. When she later tried to cancel and rebook, after having concerns about the high temperatures in resort, she was told she owed another £650.
Which? also conducted test bookings for loveholidays, finding a week-long package for two to the Oberoi Beach Reort in UAE this August with a low £29 per person deposit. Again, loveholidays listed further ‘instalments’ due, but did not make clear these were part of a deposit. In total, a further £1,439 was owed.
On The Beach also charges non-refundable deposits. Which? cited a £30 low deposit for a stay at the HSM Canarios Hotel, Majorca, which when booked online simply included a link to its T&Cs. As with loveholidays, the additional payments due were described as instalments.
Which? Travel Deputy Editor Naomi Leach said: “As the cost of living crisis continues to stretch household budgets to the limit, ‘low’ and ‘no’ deposit holiday schemes can be an enticing option, allowing consumers to spread the cost of their holiday over a longer payment period.
“However we have found many of these schemes can be confusing for holidaymakers, with cancellation fees and ‘top up’ deposit payments sometimes buried in the terms and conditions. If you’re considering a low deposit booking, always take the time to check the terms carefully, so you understand exactly what you’re liable for should you decide to cancel.”
In response, both TUI and loveholidays said low deposit schemes were increasingly popular and allowed holidaymakers to spread the cost of their trips.
But a TUI spokesperson said: “We welcome this feedback from our customers and strive to make booking a TUI holiday as easy as possible. We will review how we communicate our low deposit offering during the online booking process.”
Loveholidays said: “We provide customers with clear and accurate information about how all of our market-leading payment options work, with this information readily available on our website and throughout the booking process.
“We always have our customers best interests at heart, so we are committed to reviewing this feedback from Which? in the context of further improving the bookings journey.”
On The Beach did not respond to a request for comment.
In contrast, Which? Recommended Provider Jet2’s ‘low deposit’ is the full amount at risk. At £60 per person, this initial payment is higher than with some other companies, but the £60pp payment is all a holidaymaker would stand to lose if they cancelled.
Meanwhile Cottages.com offers a low deposit in a similar way to TUI – with the initial low deposit making up just part of a larger deposit due. However, this is made much clearer at the outset, with a pop up message appearing as soon as you select the low deposit option, outlining precisely the amount that will be due if you decide to cancel.
Jet2 said: “People work hard and save hard for their well-deserved holidays, so in line with our industry-leading approach to looking after customers, we do everything we can to help them budget and make their money go further. Our low £60 per person deposit helps customers when it comes to budgeting, with the remaining balance due ten weeks before travel.
“Customers booking with Jet2holidays can be assured that they are paying the full deposit payable when they book with us. As a Which? Recommended Provider, Jet2holidays will never introduce top up deposit payments, and we are pleased that Which? have highlighted that our low deposit refers to the full deposit payable.
“We make the terms and conditions of our low deposit scheme very clear, which is why it is extremely popular with customers. This customer-first approach is one of the many reasons why holidaymakers choose us time and time again.”