Be careful when booking accommodation online

Last updated 13:52 23/12/2013

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An Australian consumer watchdog has warned holidaymakers about the risks of booking holiday accommodation online after it recorded a 40 per cent jump in complaints.

In 2012-13, Consumer Affairs Victoria received more than 320 complaints about holiday accommodation, up from 200 complaints in the previous financial year.

Between January and September alone it received more then 800 inquiries and 175 complaints.

The most common grievances related to unsatisfactory or defective services and the non-supply or partial supply of goods and services and general requirements.

One consumer complained after paying $3860 for 10 days' accommodation in January.

Upon arrival the holidaymaker found live bed bugs, soiled bedding, mouse droppings, broken glass and filthy floors and furniture.

The holidaymaker is now seeking a partial refund, which the trader has refused.

Another consumer paid $8000 for two weeks' rent on a holiday house for 10 people.

When they arrived there was no dishwasher or Nintendo games console as advertised, the spa and air-conditioner were not working and the property was dirty.

After making a complaint the landlord arranged for the house to be cleaned and the spa and air-conditioning repaired.

However, the consumer is still seeking a partial refund.

Consumer Affairs Victoria director Claire Noone has urged Christmas holidaymakers to check the fine print on their accommodation bookings and do their research before making any payment.

She said it was common for consumers to be disappointed when "website images don't match up with reality".

"Booking travel or holiday accommodation online can be cheap and convenient but it can also be much riskier than using traditional methods," Noone said.

"As with any purchase, it's best to do your research before making any bookings or paying a deposit. Choose your destination carefully and read reviews before making any decisions," she said.

Noone also advises consumers to check their accommodation cancellation and refund policies in case holiday plans are disrupted by flight delays or natural disasters.

ONLINE HOLIDAY BOOKING TIPS

Check the accommodation provider is genuine by researching them online.
Be wary of websites that display pixilated photos, use poor English and grammar or accept payment only by direct debit or overseas payment facilities.
Be wary of cheap flight and accommodation vouchers as they can be hard to redeem.
Never provide your credit card details to someone you do not know or trust.
Never agree immediately to unsolicited offers or deals.

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MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS

Unsatisfactory or defective services - including unclean properties and broken facilities.
Non-supply or partial supply of goods and services - such as airconditioning or spa baths that do not work.
Refund and return rights - for unsatisfactory services or cancellations.
Disputed or unreasonable charges.
Accommodation that does not match expectations because website images do not reflect the current condition of a property.

- FFX Aus

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