Friday 22 September 2017

Can I get compensation from travel agent for holiday villa which didn't live up to promises?

Canary Islands File photo: Getty
Canary Islands File photo: Getty

Aine Carroll

Mm husband and I recently spent a week in the Canaries. We booked a package through a reputable travel agent which included accommodation and flights. However the week away did not live up to what we had been promised.

Our "four-star pool-side villa" was more two-star bedsit with no pool. The accommodation was also filthy and was a 30-minute walk away from the town, despite the travel agent saying it was "centrally located". Am I entitled to any compensation?

Margaret, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

 

You have consumer rights when you book your holiday through a travel agent. When you book a package holiday, you are entering into a contract with the agent. Any information in the holiday brochure provided to you must not be false or misleading. If it is, you can look for compensation from the tour operator or travel agent for any loss suffered or damage caused as a result.

You should also have received a written contract detailing the holiday including details of travel, accommodation, duration, cost and so on. This would also detail the company's complaints procedures in the event that there was a dispute - so you should check your contract.

Regarding the quality of the accommodation, make a complaint in writing to the travel agent. Explain what the issues were, how they affected you, and include any evidence you have to support your complaint, such as photos of the accommodation (if you took any).

You should make your complaint to the travel agent within 28 days of your return home. If you are still not satisfied and your claim does not exceed €2,000, you can make a complaint using the small claims procedure. Most package holiday contracts state that claims above this limit may be pursued through arbitration. Check your contract for more information.

 

I bought my daughter a games console for Christmas. It came with a free game, but when we went to use the game we discovered it was not working. I returned to the shop to get a replacement, however, the shop assistant is claiming that, because the game was free, I am not entitled to a new one. Surely she is wrong about this?

Linda, Carrickmines, Co Dublin

In general, if you buy an item and it turns out to be faulty, you are entitled to a repair, replacement, or refund - depending on what the fault is. In your situation, the game cannot be considered to be free as you could only get it if you bought the console as well. As you paid an all-inclusive price for the console and the game, return the faulty game to the shop and ask for a repair, replacement or refund. Your contract is with the retailer who sold you the product so if there is a fault, it is its responsibility to fix it.

When you return to complain, ask to speak to a manager. There is no point in complaining to a person who may have no authority to put things right. Offer to demonstrate the fault to the manager and explain that under consumer law you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. If you are unhappy with the response the retailer offers you, you should make a formal complaint to it in writing.

You also have the option of using the small claims procedure - which accepts cases up to the value of €2,000. This can be done through your local district court. There is a non-refundable fee of €25 to make a claim.

Generally, when you have a faulty product, check to see if it came with a guarantee or warranty - and what terms are attached. A guarantee is an agreement from the manufacturer confirming that it will repair or replace an item if something goes wrong within a certain amount of time after you buy it. Importantly, a guarantee or warranty doesn't alter the fact that you still have consumer rights. However, it may be the quickest option for you to get a resolution.

 

I am a 30-year-old woman who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and I am facing an intensive course of treatment over the coming months. Will this affect my ability to get a mortgage in the future?

Christine, Ennis, Co Clare

Firstly, we wish you a swift recovery as you begin your treatment. With regard to your query, each bank has its own criteria for assessing mortgage applications. When you apply for a mortgage, you will be assessed by the bank to ensure that you meet its specific criteria - for example, that you earn a certain level of income, are in secure employment and are in a position to repay the mortgage.

Some banks may also request medical records when assessing your mortgage application. It is a commercial decision for each bank as to what information they ask you for and whether they then offer you a mortgage. Contact a number of banks and discuss your situation with them. You may also wish to contact a broker who will then contact a number of banks on your behalf. If you are taking out a joint mortgage, the other applicant will also be assessed by the bank.

You will also need to take out mortgage protection insurance - which is generally a condition of every mortgage.

Mortgage-protection insurance is a type of life insurance policy that repays your mortgage if you die within the term. By law, your lender must make sure that you have this cover before taking out a mortgage - though there are some exceptions to this. When you apply for mortgage protection, you will have to tell the insurance company of any pre-existing medical conditions that you have. These will all be taken into account when calculating your insurance premium and may lead to a higher premium. It would also be a commercial decision for an insurance company as to whether or not it provides you with this cover. It would be worth discussing this with your bank as it may be able to get cover on your behalf.

 

I want to take out a loan to fund a course. I missed a few repayments on a student loan when I was in college a few years ago, though I did repay the loan in full once I started working. Will this have an impact on my ability to borrow?

Paul, Naas, Co Kildare

If you apply for a loan, the lender will look at your ability to afford the loan repayments, your savings record, your financial commitments (such as rent or loan repayments), and your credit scoring. Lenders will usually check your credit history when you apply for a loan and must tell you the name of any credit reference agencies they used, such as the Irish Credit Bureau. Lenders may refuse to give you a loan because of a poor credit history. It is the lender, not the credit reference agency, that makes the decision.

Your credit history lists details of any loans you have, or any that have been closed within the last five years. It also contains a history of the repayments made or missed on each loan, including any loans or credit cards that you did not pay off completely. In your case, if you missed repayments on your student loan, this will have been recorded on your credit history.

You might be refused a loan with one lender but not with another, because lenders use different scoring systems to decide who they will lend to. So if you are refused, you could try applying for a loan with another lender.

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

Director Communications, Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Sunday Indo Business

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