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Booking.com imposing unreasonable cancellation fee - Coronavirus

Hi

I hope no one else is having the same experience as I am.

Booking.com is not passing on the cancellation fee waiver for the hotel I have booked in Helsinki in April. I will be charged €1280- to cancel my booking, the hotel advises it will receive €165 - if I had booked directly with the hotel there would be no cancellation fee. I wonder how many other people are in the same situation? Looks like the only tourist operator that will profit from this global crisis is Booking.com.

UPDATE: My problem is that Booking.com is overriding the hotel cancellation policy. Hotel policy would allow a refund but hotel advises that Booking.com overrides this policy. When I booked my confirmation said hotel policies applied. There was no mention that Booking.com could override them. Now the hotel policy does not apply. As hotel is the only party to have given me advice, I am assuming at this point that their advice is correct. This may change.

In my country, consumer protection law prevents disproportionate contractual penalties. Any 'breach' fees are supposed to be no more than reasonable losses likely to be incurred. I can't see how Booking.com could possibly be likely to incur a loss of €1135-.

Posted by
11546 posts

Was the rate you chose when reserving through booking.com the non-refundable one? If so, therein lies the problem.

Posted by
1949 posts

I'm sorry this has happened to you. I completely understand your frustration with getting the "letter of the law" with respect to the agreement you entered with Booking, instead of compassion and what feels fair. Two important points for travelers to glean from your post: (1) Book directly with institutions instead of going through third parties and (2) Avoid non-refundable rates, especially if they involve large amounts of money (no matter how certain a traveler is that he/she will make the trip).

I will add that no company in the travel industry is profiting in these dark days of global crisis (though Booking is profiting handsomely in your individual situation as you describe it); all companies in the travel industry are trying to conserve cash as much as they can so that they can survive -- sometimes by enforcing purchase rules. History suggests that, 6 months from now, most consumers are not going to care how a company behaved during the crisis if the company will save them 5% off a hotel room.

Finally, I have directed other forum members who read your posts critical of the hotel on other threads to your new threads that indicate Booking is the problem. I hope you will revisit those threads and offer an update, too.

Posted by
11546 posts

Many of us have used booking.com without issue as long as it's understood what we're agreeing to when we finalize the reservation. If choosing the lower, non-refundable rate, it means that the booking is just that: non-refundable. It's a gamble that I only take if the dates for our stay are not long distant and so it's unlikely that we'll have a conflict. Still, I understand that if we DO have to cancel, for any reason at all, we're on the hook for the amount booked for. It's not a scam but an agreement that's clearly spelled out.

Arg, there are lots of folks losing lots of $ because of this darn virus, and it's all so unfortunate! I do sympathize. Truly. Still it's important to have all the facts here, and the rate chosen at the time of making the reservation is an important detail. I'm also puzzling a bit over the math as in another post you mentioned that you were going to pay abt. $150 USD per night for this hotel for (what appears to be) 7 nights: nowhere close to a €1780 tariff. It's also unclear if the €165 that hotel says they'll receive is total or per night, per room?

Posted by
6170 posts

Hotels set their own cancellation policies individually, not Booking.com. Booking.com is not a "tourist operator", it's a booking platform that makes reservations, takes credit card info to secure the reservations, sometimes debits the full amount on behalf of the hotel depending on its policy, and takes a cut for each booking made (that cut is folded into the price - they are not providing a service for free, after all).

Please paste the small print of the hotel's cancellation policy you received - I assume that you have made a non-refundable booking spanning multiple nights (hence the €1780), and now the hotel is trying to play the blame-game with Booking.com.

Posted by
6412 posts

Never had a problem with booking.com. since using them from 2014. But I never have and never would in good times risk paying 1700 euros upfront on a Non-refundable booking even if booking direct with a hotel.

Posted by
329 posts

I have a trip to Italy and Croatia booked for May. Yesterday, I made a list of all my bookings and the cancellation deadlines, in preparation for the increasingly likely event that I will have to cancel. Two are through Booking.com. (I book directly when possible, but some of the places I booked did not have direct booking available.) Both of these are eligible for full refunds upon cancellation, one by April 29, and one by May 17. I also made two bookings through Expedia. One is fully refundable if cancelled by May 3. One is eligible for a 70% refund if cancelled by April 29. I'm fine with that, as that is what I agreed to when I made the booking.

If you agreed to a non-refundable rate when you booked, in order to get the cheapest rate, then that is the risk you chose to take. That isn't Booking.com's fault, and it's not really fair to be badmouthing them in multiple threads and posting in "Tourist Scams" as if some sort of deception had happened.

I understand your frustration, but that was the choice you made when you booked.

Posted by
5497 posts

I just canceled by 5 night stay at the Hotel Berna (Milan) booked at the non-cancellation discounted rate through Expedia. Hotel Berna is closed because of the Italian lockdown and Expedia reached out to me with two alternatives:
First alternative would be to find me a replacement place to stay.
Second alternative is a full refund.

Expedia tried calling and finally reached me by e-mail and multiple voice messages. We took the full refund of the non-refundable prepaid five nights at the Berna. Key was Hotel Berna not being able to fulfil the booking. Thank you Expedia.

Posted by
2235 posts

My own experience with Booking.com has been excellent over a number of years, including my “cancelling” experience this past week. I had a lengthy trip planned to Italy for April-May, and finally pulled the plug when Italy closed down and Air Canada suspended all flights to Italy, including mine. I had a good number of reservations through Booking.com, ranging from 1 to 5 nights I called the Booking.com US toll-free number, got through quite easily, and received terrific service from the customer service rep. Most of my reservations were refundable, and the rep went through them one by one, cancelling each rather than my having do all that. I was still on the line as e-mails came through about each cancellation, and on my trip page, the number of nights changed to 0 for each one, as I watched. Two reservations were non-refundable, I guess that was the only choice offered at those two. One of these had night time desk service, the rep phoned them in Italy, explained my situation, and they waived the non-refundable situation, and the rep then cancelled for me. The other, an agriturismo, did not have nighttime desk service; the rep said she would be off the next two days, so she would leave full notes for someone else to follow up, but it might take a while since the reservation was for late May. No action on that yet. I’ve got no complaints, and my personal positive impression of Booking.com was just confirmed.

Posted by
342 posts

If you agreed to a non-refundable rate when you booked, in order to get the cheapest rate, then that is the risk you chose to take. That isn't Booking.com's fault, and it's not really fair to be badmouthing them in multiple threads and posting in "Tourist Scams" as if some sort of deception had happened.

Exactly correct. I had several nonrefundable reservations in Australia through booking.com during the period of the brushfires. (Edit: They were refundable up to a certain date, which had passed.) We ended up cutting our time in the country very short, partly because of the fires and partly because my husband got sick. I emailed the hotels and half of them agreed to refund the booking $$ and the other half stuck to their cancellation policies.

I regard that as fair and reasonable. No complaints at all.

Posted by
57 posts

Someone suggested that travel companies benefit from holding on to as much money as they can in a situation like this. This is a folkloric idea, and is not true of US companies subject to US accounting rules.

Revenue for services not consumed cannot be counted as core business revenue. It becomes fine or fee revenue.

(Deposits, in cases where companies don't let you cancel but do grant you a credit toward a future service, also cannot be counted as revenue. Deposits, in fact, show up on the balance sheet as liabilities, not as assets.)

Accounting rules are intended to provide lenders and investors with an honest view of how a business is doing. Cancelation penalties, deposits, etc. will not fool investors into thinking that a travel business is still doing well. For a large US corporation, the only motivation for keeping this money in the face of an unprecedented (in modern times) crisis is greed.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope it encourages others to deal directly with travel suppliers, many of which are being quite reasonable with changes, refunds, etc.

Posted by
174 posts

Booking .com isn't a travel agency, it is simply a platform that hotels, hostels, airbnb, ect. can use to sell their rooms. Yes, Booking.com does make money from the hotels but they don't make the hotel's cancellation policies. As others have stated, if you booked a non-refundable room why do you feel you are being scammed because you can't receive a refund?

I have used Booking.com many times and never had a problem. As I plan and book my trips 6 months or more in advance I always make sure I choose a refundable cancellation price. On my up coming trip 1 of the hotels I'd have to cancel 4 days before arrival if I want a full refund otherwise the hotel will charge me for 1 night. Another hotel I can cancel the day before arrival and receive a full refund.

You need to read the hotel policy before booking and stop accusing Booking.com of being a scram.

Posted by
113 posts

Update - the hotel cancellation policy would allow me to cancel and receive a refund, except that the hotel says it cannot apply its own policy to a room booked via Booking.com (and says that this is a Booking.com requirement). At no point in my booking process was there ever any advice that a different cancellation policy would apply. I booked in good faith that the hotel policies would apply and now am being told that they don't. I didn't book a non refundable rate, it was refundable up to a certain date - unfortunately that date is now passed. I had fully intended to travel until yesterday when my government strongly advised against all international travel and when many of the countries I intended to visit started banning foreigners.

So in a nutshell ... hotel policy says refund OK, hotel says Booking.com overrides its cancellation policy (no advice of this until yesterday), and Booking.com says no refund. Hotel says Booking.com keeps all but Euro 165 of cancellation fee. So only person profiting from this is Booking.com who get a windfall. Really, so how am I misrepresenting and badmouthing Booking.com - I am only stating my individual experience which is that despite Booking.com (and my original confirmation advice) saying hotel policy would apply when I booked, it now does not apply and a new (never revealed to me) policy does - that Booking.com imposes a cancellation fee and keeps the majority of the money.

Posted by
953 posts

OP
If your last post is correct then notify BBB and see what they can do for you.

Posted by
113 posts

Sorry who is BBB? If you are referring to Booking.com then they will not help. They are only offering a button to press to accept the cancellation fee.

Posted by
174 posts

OK now I'm confused. You say " I didn't book a non refundable rate, it was refundable up to a certain date - unfortunately that date is now passed. " So please tell us what was the cutoff date to cancel and what date you did cancel.

Found this on Booking.com Q&A page:

Cancellations:

Q. Can I cancel my booking?
Yes - any cancellation fees are determined by the property and listed in your cancellation policy. You'll pay any additional costs to the property.

Q. If I need to cancel my booking, will I pay a fee?
If you have a free cancellation booking, you won't pay a cancellation fee. If your booking isn't free to cancel anymore or is non-refundable, you may incur a cancellation fee. Any cancellation fees are determined by the property, and you'll pay any additional costs to the property.

Posted by
953 posts

Aussie.
BBB is the Better Business Bureau. See if you can find the local branch where Booking is located.
Worth a try.

Posted by
2235 posts

AussieNomad, in reading over your posts go here again, I don’t read that you have actually called Booking.com on the phone, and talked to a customer service rep about your situation. If not yet, that would be a very good step. I have found Booking.com and their reps to be very helpful.

Posted by
11546 posts

I picked this up from another of your posts:

The hotel cancellation policy would allow a refund, Booking.com won't.
When I booked I was told the hotel policies would apply, now hotel
says that their policy does not apply as Booking.com overrides hotel
policy - this was never advised to me until yesterday.

Sorry but this doesn't make any sense. No, a hotel's own published cancellation policy on their own website does not apply to booking.com reservations. Only the policies published on the booking.com site apply and I'm a little surprised that you thought otherwise. If you'd looked at the hotel's cancellation policy on its own site and found it to be more attractive than booking.com's why didn't you just book directly with them?

It's confusing WHO told you otherwise (about the policies) as it's unlikely that you actually spoke to anyone in person at booking,com when you made your reservation? It's not standard procedure to do so, anyway. Its equally confusing who would have been expected to advise you personally about booking.com's cancellation policy as it's published right on the site?

Just out of curiosity, I plugged your dates (4/26 - 5/3) into the booking.com website for Hotel Indigo Helsinki-Boulevard. It shows many rooms available and only two sorts of booking rates: non-refundable, or non-prepayment free cancellation before 4:00 PM on April 25, 2020. You should have received a reservation confirmation with pertinent details when you booked? What does it say about your cancellation options?

I've only had an issue once that required personal assistance from a booking.com rep (an accommodation that wasn't confirming reception of info they'd requested) but like Larry, found them to be most helpful. Obviously, they're probably very, very busy just now so some patience is advised. :O)

Posted by
174 posts

Sounds more like the hotel doesn't want to cancel and is just putting it on Booking.com. I have never seen nor heard of Booking.com having it's own cancellation policy. Your confirmation email will have the cancellation information. Here is what mine states for a stay starting on 2 Sept.

Cancellation cost

Until August 30, 2020 11:59 PM [Budapest]: € 0
From August 31, 2020 12:00 AM [Budapest]: € 130.49

and:

The total price shown is the amount you'll pay the property. Booking.com doesn't charge guests any reservation, administration, or other fees.
If you cancel, applicable taxes may still be charged by the property.
If you don’t show up for this booking, and you don’t cancel beforehand, the property is liable to charge you the full reservation amount.

This is what all 4 of my confirmations say (different dates/hotels of course). Nowhere on their site not the confirmation email is there anything that says Booking.com will charge anyone. Call the hotel or email and ask for the policy they are talking about in writing.

Posted by
276 posts

I almost never reserve hotel rooms at the non-refundable rate. The discount is not enough to take the risk. Airline pricing, for better or worse, makes the risk worth taking, Non-refundable tickets are often 1/3 or less than the refundable rate. But, most hotels offer at best a 20% discount. Not enough reward for the risk, in my opinion.

Even if I make the trip, I often find another hotel that is nicer, better located or more highly rated. It's nice to be able to cancel and book the better hotel.

Posted by
3367 posts

I just started cancelling my hotels last week for my trip to Italy in September to give the hotel plenty of time to obtain a new EU reservation, if possible. (I picked a rainy day to do it since it was going to be a sad day!). Here’s my status:

9 hotel/B&B’s - 8 were through Booking.com, 1 directly with a hotel I have stayed previously.
3 were refundable- free cancellation. I cancelled those for no charge.

6 non-refundable. I wrote them a nice note, requesting free cancellation due to Italy not allowing US travelers now.
2 non-refundable hotels agreed to free cancellation. One I have received the pre-payment credit on my credit card. Waiting for the second. (I appreciated this greatly & will definitely stay at these places when I’m able to go to Italy!)
1 wrote back and wants to see if the travel restrictions will change.
3 gave me vouchers, instead.

I think Booking.com and the small hotels and B&B’s have all been very kind, and I wrote each one back to thank them.

Posted by
113 posts

So I did eventually get a refund but only because the hotel went out of their way to help me. When it’s safe to travel I hope to rebook the same hotel but will book directly next time.