Making Cents: Less likely you’ll be scammed with package holiday

Making Cents: Less likely you’ll be scammed with package holiday

This week Gráinne McGuinness offers consumer advice on booking summer holidays.

THE sun has finally appeared in the last few days, but it has yet to make us forget the long, miserable winter. But we can console ourselves with the thoughts of a sun holiday.

With the final school term well underway, I spoke to Áine Carroll, communications director with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, for advice on booking your summer holiday.

More of us are booking the individual elements of the holiday ourselves and Ms Carroll has plenty of tips on doing so, but she also recommends the traditional package holiday with a tour operator.

Making Cents: Less likely you’ll be scammed with package holiday

“They can be a really good option, because, although, potentially, people can save money by booking all the parts themselves, you have specific protections when you book a package holiday and those things can become really valuable, particularly if you are travelling with young kids or elderly parents,” she said.

“If something goes wrong, you want somebody else to step in and sort it for you. Imagine the scenario where you get to the accommodation you have booked and it is awful.

“If you have booked a package holiday, the first thing you do is call the rep. That can be really useful,” she says.

If things do go awry, consumers have far more protection on a package holiday.

“When you take out a package holiday, you have entered into a contract with the travel agent and they have to make sure your holiday runs smoothly,” Ms Carroll said.

“They have to give you a contract beforehand, with every detail of the holiday, flights, excursions,etc, and detail the complaints process. If they change any part of it, they have to give you a replacement of equivalent or superior value or refund the difference.

If anything goes wrong, there is EU legislation and it is very clear what the tour operator has to do. There is a whole complaints process. There is a standard process around problems which may be of great value to certain consumers.

If you are booking yourself, Ms Carroll said care needs to be taken around accommodation, in particular.

“Accommodation scams are one of those issues that are very hard to quantify, but we know that it does happen,” she said.

“In terms of booking self-catering accommodation, you have your really well-known ones, like Airbnb, but you have lots of others and how do you know that the accommodation you are booking actually exists? Most people wouldn’t even ask themselves that, unless they have had a negative experience in the past.”

Caution and a little research are needed. Ms Carroll said people offering a discount for direct booking should raise a red flag, unless you already know them and/or the property.

“That should ring alarm bells for consumers, because the protection you get by using the platform would be lost if you book directly with an individual who is abroad.

“Search online for information. If you have the person’s name, search it, because, often, if someone has reported a scam before, they have reported the name. Look on Google Maps, as well. Ask for the coordinates and have a look to see if the house exists.”

Be slow to pay everything, unless you are 100% confident of the vendor.

“Some people will ask you to pay all the money up-front — be a little bit wary of that.

Making Cents: Less likely you’ll be scammed with package holiday

“It is not that everyone who does that is trying to scam you, just that the potential for a scam is higher. Offer to give a deposit and say you will pay the rest when you get there.”

She also said that while online reviews can be useful, they need to be viewed with a critical eye: “If you see multiple reviews saying the place is amazing and they were all posted around the same date, or if they have similar typos or grammar mistakes, or slightly odd use of language, that might indicate it is one person putting them all up. Look out for that kind of spurious review.”

Next week, Áine offers further advice on specific travel issues, including insurance and car hire.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

If your family are more interested in the Irish countryside than jetting abroad, you can get kitted out for summer camping later this week in Lidl.

The retailer has a whole range of camping equipment on offer, the highlight of which is a four-person tent for €129.

It is fully collapsible and comes with a weatherproof awning for added storage space.

Making Cents: Less likely you’ll be scammed with package holiday

The makers promise straightforward assemble, with fibreglass rods and connecting systems. It also comes with 22 tent pegs, 12 guy lines and details instructions.

The tent has two independent sleeping cabins and a darkened interior to help with a good night’s sleep. The whole thing weighs 10.6kgs.

The range also includes a camping chair for €9.99, a lantern with insect killer for €14.99 and a a foldaway, adjustable camping storage cupboard for €34.99.

The camping range is one sale in Lidl stores from Thursday April 26.

If your family are more interested in the Irish countryside than jetting abroad, you can get kitted out for summer camping later this week in Lidl.

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