Cancelled hotel rooms – your rights

Over the past few years I’ve received a steady flow of emails and letter from readers complaining that their hotel room had been cancelled, upon arrival at Travel Lodge. I was therefore very interested to see BBC Watchdog investigating this very issue last week. During the show Watchdog aired disgruntled customers who had been turned away by the hotel group despite having confirmed bookings. A statement from Premier Inn was also read out which stated that they overbook their hotel rooms, in the same way as airlines do, to ensure they maintain full occupancy due to cancellations.
Watchdog did a great job in exposing the issue but here’s what you need to know in relation to what your actual rights are if you find yourself out in the cold after booking a room with Travel Lodge:

1. Are they legally entitled to cancel your room?

Travel Lodge’s terms and conditions state:

We will issue you with a confirmation number when a booking has been made. The confirmation number is proof that we have accepted your booking. No booking shall be binding on Travelodge until we issue you with a confirmation number.

Their terms and conditions also go on to state that they operate a ‘relocation policy’ which appears to be what they rely on when they turn consumers away at the hotel door. However, their own website defines when they can invoke this policy as follows:
Occasionally, relocating customers to other suitable hotels becomes necessary due to unforeseen circumstances. In this rare situation our teams will work to ensure you are provided with alternative suitable accommodation.

It is therefore clear that Travel Lodge are simply confused in this matter as it appears that the policy is invoked when they ‘oversell’ rooms and this cannot be described as an ‘unforeseen circumstance’.

This means that once you pay your money and receive the confirmation number there is a binding legal contract. The effect of this is that Travel Lodge cannot then cancel the room and if they do they are in breach of contract, unless they cancel for unforeseen circumstances.

2. What are you entitled to?
The general remedy for a breach of contract is to put you ‘back in the position you would have been in had the breach not occurred’. This could mean putting you up in an alternative hotel or providing a refund. But these two remedies will not always ‘put you back in the position you would have been in’ as the alternative hotel may not be convenient and you may not want a refund. If this is the case you may be entitled to both a refund and an additional payment to cover connected losses – such as the sum of money equal to the difference in price of an alternative more convenient but more expensive hotel room.

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