Do your homework on holiday rentals

Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria Claire Noone has urged Christmas holidaymakers to check the fine print on their accommodation bookings before they pack their bags.

“As with any purchase, it’s best to do your research before making any bookings or paying a deposit. Choose your destination carefully and read reviews before making any decisions,” Dr Noone said.

Consumer Affairs Victoria received around 175 complaints and more than 800 enquiries about holiday accommodation from January to September this year.

Dr Noone said holidaymakers should be particularly careful with online bookings.

“It can be very disappointing when your accommodation doesn’t meet your expectations because the website images don’t match up with reality,” Dr Noone said.

“When you’re deciding on accommodation, you need to consider whether the place you have in mind has all the facilities you want and is conveniently located, and what other people have said in their reviews.

“Consumers looking for a summer getaway should also check their accommodation cancellation and refund policies, to find out what they can do if their holiday plans are disrupted by flight delays or natural disasters.

“If you have to cancel accommodation for any reason, contact your travel agent or accommodation provider as soon as possible, to inform them of the situation and negotiate a refund or re-booking.”

Dr Noone said consumers should be wary of unsolicited holiday offers as they could be a scam.

“Booking travel or holiday accommodation online can be cheap and convenient, but it can also be much riskier than using traditional methods, so consumers should be vigilant,” Dr Noone said.

“When you book directly with an online provider, check that the business or individual is legitimate by researching them online, looking for a physical address of the business, and checking privacy settings for any online payment methods.”

To avoid scams, you should:

  • never agree immediately to unsolicited offers or deals
  • check the provider is genuine by researching them online
  • be wary of websites that display pixelated photos, use poor English and grammar, or accept payment only by direct debit or via overseas payment facilities
  • keep a copy of all the contact and accommodation details, including exact web and email addresses
  • never provide your credit card details to someone you do not know or trust
  • transfer any funds via your credit card provider’s secure facilities or a recognised facility such as PayPal
  • be wary of cheap flight and accommodation vouchers – these can be very hard to redeem and have many terms and conditions.

Some vouchers can only be redeemed by buying expensive holidays.

If you are in any doubt, consider booking accommodation through a travel agent or directly through a reputable hotel chain or airline to reduce the risk of fraud.