Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s investigator, battling readers’ corners, exposing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left behind. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms AS writes: We booked villas in Turkey through Booking.com for our party of 19, but when we arrived the owner told us to leave because we didn’t have a reservation. He then called the police.
We had paid €8,400 (about £7,300) but had to spend two days in emergency accommodation costing €2,000 (about £1,740) and another €6,000 (about £5,200) in new villas . It was a very expensive nightmarish vacation.
We have asked Booking.com for a refund and hope you can help us.
Promise: The villas were in Kalkan, Turkey, but the owner called the police
Tony Hetherington replies: Your party of 19 included four young children and you prepaid for three villas.
A few days before your vacation, you received confirmation of the arrangements to transfer you from the airport to the Kalkan villas. But when you landed there was no transport waiting for you, and when you called the villas owner he denied you had a reservation and told you not to go to the villas.
You went anyway, and you found the owner waiting for you there. He called the police to have you evicted and you spent seven hours at the local police station.
The police were actually friendly and helpful. They found you hotel rooms for the next two nights and even gave you an online link through which you managed to find new villas, even if that meant paying everything all over again.
Meanwhile, there was confusion and contradiction over why it all happened. The owner of the original villas said he knew nothing about your booking and suggested that a previous owner ripped you off. But he gave Booking.com a slightly different explanation, saying you were double booked.
You contacted Booking.com and were assured that you would receive a refund within two weeks. But no refund arrived and you told me that Booking.com explained that you didn’t have “documents in the correct currency”, whatever that means. At this point, after spending a month trying to get your money back, you contacted me.
I asked Booking.com for comment and was quickly told, “We would like to apologize to the guest for their experience and the obvious inconveniences they faced.” Of course, we will reimburse them for the initial booking and moving costs, while we investigate further to understand what happened.
But in a message for you, Booking. com said, “Booking.com does not own any rooms, apartments or other accommodation units, and we are not responsible for this.”
The company has refunded all the money you originally paid and said it will pay you an additional £819 ‘as a sign of goodwill’.
The £819 was the cost of the two days you all spent in emergency hotel accommodation. There was nothing to make up for the thousands of pounds you spent on your savings and holiday money to pay for replacement villas locally. And nothing to make up for a ruined vacation when we had paid for a relaxing vacation.
And, of course, none of this explains what went wrong in the first place. Booking.com does not believe this to be a scam and has confirmed that the Turkish real estate company employed by the villa owner accepted your booking. Booking.com has removed the villas from its website.
The end result is that although you have now received just over £8,000, you still have around £1,000 out of pocket. And your trip was hardly the vacation you expected.
Booking.com stressed: “To the extent permitted by mandatory consumer law, we will only be liable for costs which you incur as a direct result of defaulting on our behalf.”
He added that the £819 he paid on top of the refund “is not an admission of liability”.
It’s not reassuring.
My mortgage has been rejected – more than a £36 unpaid phone bill
SM writes: I sold my rental property, which had a Santander mortgage with three years to run on a five-year fixed rate.
This resulted in a £10,000 charge but when I applied for another mortgage within the three month time limit allowed I was turned down.
The reason was a bad debt related to my property, which I purchased from my late father’s estate.
Tony Hetherington replies: When you were told about the bad debt you realized it was actually only £36 that was owed to Virgin. Your father died before he paid his phone bill, you bought the property and the £36 debt arose in your name. This was enough to mean an automatic refusal from Santander to transfer your rental loan to a new property, even if you had paid Virgin.
I asked Santander to look into the matter, and a few days later the bank told me: ‘We have reviewed Mr M’s case through our routine appeals process and have approved the mortgage application, subject to an appraisal.”
As a sign of goodwill, Santander is also reimbursing his expert fees.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at the Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Due to the high volume of inquiries, no personal response can be given. Please only send copies of original documents, which we regret cannot return.
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