When searching for last minute offers, especially users of the internet should not rush into ordering a travel package or accommodation if they may wish to cancel it for any reason later. There is no right for withdrawal from the contract and especially services providers from other EU countries can claim high cancellation fees that can sometimes amount up to 100%.
Some people don’t realize that when surfing websites of tour operators or hotels it can be enough just to click on the “Order” button and the reservation is binding – without the necessity to sign any printed document. Subsequently they are surprised when asked to pay a cancellation fee amounting up to 100 % after they decide to cancel the trip.
“Such rate isn’t always legitimate. We help Czech consumers resolve their disputes against traders from other EU countries and cases concerning cancellation fees mostly relate to Germany and Austria. In some cases we use jurisdiction from these countries to decrease the fee amount requested by vendors,” says Ondřej Tichota of the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Czech Republic.
In one case, legal expertise of the German ECC helped reduce a cancellation fee by €170 in a case of a Czech consumer who cancelled a package holiday. The German tour operator asked for a 40% cancellation fee which was paid by the consumer who however asked for a free cancellation, thinking that there was still enough time to sell the product to somebody else. “The European Consumer Centre Germany managed to make the vendor comply with the German legislation which stipulates that the maximum of 20% can be required as a cancellation fee when a package holiday is cancelled more than 30 days before its start. The consumer got back the €170,” said Tichota.
The situation in Austria is a little different. Even though sometimes vendors ask for very high cancellation fees, many accommodators voluntarily use business terms and conditions stemming from Austrian jurisdiction. It states that any cancellation of a stay more than three months in advance is free-of-charge and from three months to one month the cancellation fee should not exceed 40%. If the period is shorter than one month, but longer than one week, the fee shouldn’t be more than 70%. If a consumer cancels less than a week before the start of the stay, he should pay maximally 90% of the price of accommodation.
“When selecting accommodation, it is useful to read business terms and conditions covering possible cancellation of the stay,” alerts Ondřej Tichota.