If you suffer an accident whilst abroad whether in a vehicle, the collapse of a poolside chair or tripping over uneven tiles, you may still be able to bring a legal claim in the UK Courts.
You may be assisted by the “Package Holidays” Regulations. This can avoid the difficulties associated with bringing a claim in a foreign country. These Regulations allow an injured victim to bring a claim against the Tour Operator in his or her own country.
Even where the holiday was purchased by another person, a company or a club or even won as a prize, each holiday maker still has direct rights to seek compensation.
Whatever, the circumstances from the most serious, eg a fatal coach accident, to a slip on a cruise ship, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as practicable because of the many pitfalls which may apply and the stringent foreign time limits in which to bring a claim.
What you should do when things go wrong
Whatever the problem, it is important to bring it immediately to the tour operator’s notice or report it to the local representative.
If you wait until you arrive home before you complain, you could technically be in breach of contract.
If your complaint is acknowledged by the representative, obtain proof by getting a copy of the complaint form.
Record dates and time and make a note of any person (hotel manager, staff and representatives) that you speak to.
Keep evidence of your problem
- Take photographs or a video. This is crucial if you feel you have a complaint.
- Retain receipts if you incur unnecessary expense.
- If you are ill or have an accident, try and obtain medical evidence. If you are too ill, try and get a friend or relative to get this information for you. Make sure you get names of any doctors who treat you and the address of any clinic or hospital.
What you must do when you arrive back in the U.K.
You must immediately put your complaint in writing to your tour operator. The booking conditions usually specify a time limitation in which to register your complaint with them.
It may be anything from 6-8weeks from the date that you return to the UK.
Tour Operators responsibilities
A Tour Operator may have to warn the Consumer of any known dangers he or she is likely to face in the resort in question, eg even extreme weather conditions in certain seasons.
The holiday brochure will be important – both the description of the facilities and the “small print” of the Terms and Conditions of the Contract. Brochures usually state that local Health and Safety Standards apply and these may be lower than UK Standards. Then again the Balearic Islands Swimming Pools decree 53.1995 requires the complete absence of micro organisms from swimming pool water. Difficult to achieve at the best of times!
However, not every failure can be attributed to the Tour Operator. A robbery or assault at a Hotel by determined criminals may be unavoidable unless the beach front hotel had been turned into a compound!
Nevertheless, Thomson Holidays were brought to account when a flight delay of 23 hours through Air Traffic Control problems necessitated a freezing night for a holiday maker on a “Gold” Package.
Bringing a claim
Generally, if you wish to recover damages under the holiday contract then you can sue the tour operator for breach of contract.
It is possible to bring a claim for what is know as “loss of bargain”. This means what you actually received compared with what you contracted and paid for.
In holiday contracts, the law has recognised a claim for loss of enjoyment. This may include anxiety, distress and inconvenience. This is especially important in respect of holidays involving honeymoons and anniversaries.
A fair solution
You may also be able to claim out of pocket expenses — for example, the cost of a taxi fare when airport transfers have not been provided.
In many situations it is a case of negotiating with your tour operator a level of compensation.
Remember though, that a tour operator is a business and it will not pay any more than it has to.
If you feel particularly aggrieved and feel that you are getting nowhere, you should have the choice of pursuing your case through the Court system.
However, the standard booking conditions may include an “Arbitration Clause” in the contract. It is therefore advisable to always seek legal advice before issuing court proceedings.