April 14, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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travel | “I will never book about this again”

travel |  "I will never book about this again"

What are your recourses when a house, chalet or condo landlord cancels your reservation at the last minute?

Benoit, a reader, said he wanted to stay ahead of the curve by booking his spring break vacation this year several months in advance, since prices are always higher as the week off approaches.

He rents a house for two families of four with children based on his plane tickets, travel, planned activities and car rental.

A few weeks before departure, he received a “Reservation Canceled” email with no details or message. Believing it was an error or fake email, he contacted customer service at Vrbo (formerly HomeAway), which is owned by Expedia Group.

“A Vrbo employee told me that the host actually canceled the reservation because there was a double booking on a different platform,” Benoit explained over the phone.

Unlike Airbnb, which requires hosts to be compensated if they cancel without a valid reason, Vrbo does not have this type of policy.

At the same time hosts who present their property for rent on several platforms, as you can imagine, tend to cancel the ones that don't incur costs.

“The customer service person couldn't do anything for me, and I had to find another place to accommodate our group,” Benoit said.

Photo by Hugo-Sebastian Aubert, La Presse Archives

There have been many unfortunate experiences with the Vrbo travel platform.

This reader is the only one dissatisfied with Vrbo platform services. He was lucky, as we read many negative comments from users here and elsewhere, who saw their host cancel a reservation with less than 24 hours notice and had to find new accommodation at a higher cost without compensation. Sometimes in more places than expected, with transportation problems and not all travelers can be accommodated.

“The rent was canceled the same day we arrived. Support was unable to find us a replacement rental,” Meg wrote on the Vrbo site on TrustPilot on January 4, 2024: “If the owner unexpectedly cancels your reservation less than 30 days prior to your stay, we will help you find comparable accommodations. »

On December 29, 2023, Serge said, “They canceled my reservation two weeks before the trip. More of a waste of your time with Vrbo, all they do is apologize. Save your apologies. »

On February 26, 2024, Roger Parent wrote “Site that scams people; ” Run ! », signs RG on January 11, 2024.

What do rental platforms plan?

When asked about customer dissatisfaction, a Vrbo representative confirmed that cancellations are rare, but that there is “no established compensation system” other than refunding the reservation. The procedure is the same for all Expedia Group rental platforms.

“We understand how frustrating it can be to have a host cancel a reservation,” Expedia Group spokeswoman Fatima Atmani said via email.

When hosts cancel for reasons other than reasons beyond their control, these cancellations negatively affect the performance of their listings and the visibility of that listing to travelers on the site, and frequent cancellations may result in the removal of an ad from our platform.

Fatima Atmani, Expedia Group Spokesperson

Vrbo reimbursed Benoit, but the amount was reduced due to the exchange rate. “Vrbo won't refund me the difference, double booking, even if it was their fault. Therefore I have to take action with my travel credit card issuer and open a complaint file. »

“I'll never book about it again,” said Benoit, who eventually booked a home with a local company.

Airbnb is more serious

If hosts display their condo, house or room for rent on multiple platforms simultaneously, they may not cancel Airbnb customers' reservations. The American multinational has a policy of charging fees to hosts who cancel without valid reason.

“Our new tools and procedures reduced cancellations by a third in the last quarter of 2023,” Airbnb spokesman Matt McNama said via email.

Photo by Dado Ruvik, Reuters Archives

Airbnb has a policy of charging fees to hosts who cancel without a valid reason.

As per AirCover policy, if canceled within 48 hours, the charge to the host is 50% of the reservation amount. Between 30 days and 48 hours before arrival, the fee is 25% of the reservation amount. More than 30 days prior to arrival, it is 10% of the reservation amount.

Hosts may also experience other consequences, including having their listings removed from the listing calendar, having their account deleted, and losing their Superhost status.

On the Antilles Exclusion Reservation site, in the event of cancellation by the host, the company “must provide accommodation and services provided at another accommodation in the same destination of at least the same category and cover any transfer costs incurred. This change.”

Courts of last resort

In the case of a host that cancels because it is not justified by force majeure, such as a pandemic or disaster, the consumer can claim damages for non-performance of the contract, argued Alexandre Plourde in an interview, lawyer and analyst at Option Consumers.

“If one of the damages he paid more for the same service, that may be part of what the consumer can claim. »

The big question: How do you claim?

“There are no magic solutions,” says Alexandre Plourde. If there are no possibilities for compensation from the platform, you must go to court. »

If the host is overseas, forget the idea of ​​suing them for small claims.

In situations where booking platforms are used, many indicate that they are in no way responsible for the failure to provide service by the host, and that they carry this responsibility, counsel suggests.

“At Option Consumers, we think these intermediaries should be held responsible for contractual breaches of the final service provider, and consumers should be able to make complaints,” Alexandre Plourde maintains.

Select companies and the Office of Consumer Protection (OPC) advise holidaymakers to always use a travel agency.

“In the case of tourism services purchased from a travel agent, the protections provided by FICAV apply automatically and free of charge. Therefore, for example, when the originally chosen accommodation is no longer available due to x or y, FICAV can reimburse the reasonable additional cost due to the need to change the accommodation,” explained the holder. -Representative of the OPC, Charles Tanguay.

The OPC has received ten complaints in the past two years regarding HomeAway.com Inc. (Vrbo) and Airbnb Canada Inc. Six complaints for, especially for fraudulent and unfair practices.

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