Your Questions: 'Our ferry cabin was smelly and dirty on our journey home - can we get compensation?'
Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30
We have just come back from a family holiday in France, where we travelled with our young children by ferry.
While the holiday was great, we were very unhappy with the standard of the cabin on the return journey.
Our issues included a bad stench of vomit which made for a very uncomfortable night's sleep. Most of the family fell sick with a stomach bug shortly after we arrived home - and I suspect this may have been due to poor hygiene in the cabin.
The cot provided by the ferry for my baby to sleep in was worn, smelly and dirty.
There was a long delay boarding passengers on the night of our return journey.
My husband and I did not complain at the time because we wanted to get our children to bed. Are we entitled to any compensation - and what should we do if we find ourselves in a similar situation again?
Aisling, Co Cork
You do have rights if your ferry is delayed. If the delay is for more than 90 minutes, the ferry operator is required to offer you free snacks, meals or refreshments (in proportion to the waiting time).
With regard to the quality of the accommodation, you should make a complaint in writing to the ferry company. Check if the business has a customer care department.
Many businesses will have their own proper internal complaints procedures, and complaints are often resolved using these. Explain what the issues were, how they affected you and include any evidence you have to support your complaint (such as for example, a photo of the cot).
Get the name of the manager or someone who has the authority to deal with your complaint. If you are not satisfied with the response from the ferry company, the only option available to you is to travel with an alternative provider in future.
It is always best to make your complaint as soon as you can. If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself in the same situation again, try to bring the issue to the attention of the customer services manager before you disembark.
This would allow you to show them the specific issues such as the unpleasant smell and poor quality of the cot.
However, I can appreciate that this is easier said than done when you are travelling with young children.
I am in the market for a second-hand car. I visited a local garage last weekend and spotted a car for sale. It is a seven-year-old car which was owned by a lady driver who only drove it locally, according to the garage.
It has very low mileage but when I looked at the interior of the car, there was significant wear and tear on the seat covers and steering wheel which I don't think is consistent with the reported mileage.
My question is what can I do to check the history of the car?
Mary, Dublin 5
There are a number of companies who can check the history of a car for you for a fee - you can search online to find a company to carry out this service. This check may uncover details which the seller is trying to hide, such as whether or not the car was ever written-off, the true mileage of it - or if there is outstanding finance on it.
It is an offence under consumer law for a trader to offer a car for sale which has been clocked (where the genuine odometer reading of the car has been changed to reflect a lower mileage).
If you do find evidence that a car has been clocked, let the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission know.
Check that the car you are buying is not under an existing finance agreement. If it is, the person trying to sell the car does not actually own it and does not have the right to sell it to you. If you buy a car with outstanding finance, the legal owners (that is, a bank), can repossess the car from you.
Your car history check should examine whether or not there is outstanding finance on the car as well as the previous recorded odometer readings; details of any insurance claims; if the car has been used as a taxi; and/or details of any crashes.
As well as checking the history of the car, it is important you satisfy yourself about the physical condition of the car. Get the car independently checked by a mechanic to avoid any nasty surprises in the future.
I recently went on a weekend break to a hotel in the country. I booked the hotel on the strength of reviews I read on the hotel's website from previous customers.
However, the hotel was nothing like the picture that was painted by these reviews. In fact, after being there, I strongly suspect the reviews were made up by the hotel to encourage bookings.
Do I have any rights to a refund here?
Chris, Kinsealy, Co Dublin
You are not alone in using online reviews to help you make a decision on where to stay. Many people look at online reviews when deciding whether to buy something, especially when it's something you haven't bought before - such as a new product, or somewhere you haven't booked before - such as a hotel. Positive reviews may well influence your decision.
If the hotel provided you with what you paid for, for example bed and breakfast, then you have received what you paid for. If you received what you booked but are unhappy with the standards or facilities at the hotel, this is a civil dispute between you and the hotel - so would need to be raised directly with them. Contact the hotel and give them the opportunity to resolve the problem.
If you complain face-to-face or over the phone you may get a quick solution to your problem. If you don't, keep track of conversations you had, including dates, names and what was discussed. If you are getting nowhere, make a formal complaint in writing - either by email or letter.
There is a sample complaint letter on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's consumer website (www.consumerhelp.ie) which outlines what to include in your letter.
Remember to give evidence to support your complaint such as a written account of events, photographs or video evidence of poor facilities. If you cannot resolve the matter with the hotel and it is a member of a trade association, you may wish to pursue the matter further with the association. The association may have a customer service charter that includes a complaints procedure which you can use.
Before you buy something based on a review, it pays to be a little sceptical. Think about where the information has come from - is it an independent website, one consumer, a number of consumers, or a blogger?
When you're not familiar with a company, do a little digging online by going to a search engine and typing the name of the product, service or company name, along with 'review', 'complaint' or 'scam'. Look for credible opinions from trusted sources and don't just rely on one. Ideally you should compare reviews from a number of websites.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Sunday Indo Business