23 Jan

What do you need to know when it comes to handling customer claims?

It is unfortunate, although not at all unsurprising, that in an industry where dreams are promised, and expectations are sold to be realities, legal claims are likely to arise. Statistics show that, in the past 20 years, there has been a 68% rise in the number of holidays taken by UK residents*. That’s over 45 million foreign holidays each year! Of course, the vast majority of holidays to go plan, with customers having the experience of a lifetime, however, with that many people, going to that many places, it is almost a given that at some stage, something can or will go wrong.

Do you have the policies and procedures in place to deal with such an issue should it arise? Do your employees know what is required of them should a legal claim land on their desk?  
Be it an illness, an injury, a delayed flight, or a hotel that has pink curtains instead of the promised blue – complaints and legal claims can arise from any and all aspects of a holiday and believe me, we have seen them all! We live in a world where technology and social media make it more and more simple to record, photograph and share day to day experiences and so complaining, funnily enough, has become much easier to do. The courts are also getting in on the ‘online’ action, and it’s now possible for claimants to issue claims online through the online portal – again, making the process simpler, quicker and more accessible to those who wish to perhaps bring smaller claims without the need for seeking professional legal advice.

So what are your legal obligations when selling a holiday?
When you sell a holiday to a customer you are entering into a legal and binding contract, in that you are promising to give them something, and they are giving you money in return. For this reason, the terms of the contract are most important as, if any of these are broken, you could be held in breach. Now, of course, most companies have lengthy terms and conditions which everyone knows form part of the contract, but what you may not know is that what you advertise on your website and in your brochure may form part of this contract too. So, for example, if you advertise a ‘luxury villa, located in rural Spain’ and show a picture of a beautiful, standalone property, surrounded by sprawling fields, you can bet your bottom dollar that it a customer purchases such a villa, and arrives to find it tatty, run-down and surrounded by loud, annoying neighbours, you may well find yourself getting sued for breach of contract. 

Another, and unfortunately very common reason for which legal claims are being brought against travel companies, is illness and injury. The travel industry has seen a huge increase in the number of such claims and it is vital that companies know how to deal with these and what evidence is required to be able to defeat them. 

We will be addressing all of these issues in further detail at ABTA’s popular Claims Handing in Travel seminar on 27 February 2019. As the event partner, we will take you through the various legal procedures that you and your employees need to be aware of in order to properly protect yourselves and your company should you face legal action from any of your customers. We will be joined by industry and ABTA representatives who will share real life claim examples and walk delegates through practical exercises and case studies around breach of contract, accident on holiday and illness on holiday claims.

The seminar will be held on 27 February 2019 at ABTA’s offices in London Bridge. If you would like to hear more, you can register for the event on abta.com.

ABTA Partner, Travlaw

* Office of National Statistics 2017