Is it a contract?
Did I make an enforceable contract when I emailed to say 'yes' to renting a villa? That was the question put to the UK European Consumer Centre in a media enquiry from the Daily Telegraph's consumer champion Gill Charlton.
A consumer was sent details about a villa in Sicily after submitting a reservation request by email. He confirmed by email that he would take the villa. Several days later, before the consumer had had time to pay the travel agency's invoice, his wife discovered that she couldn't travel and the consumer emailed the agency to say he wouldn't be taking the villa after all. The travel agency wanted 30 per cent of the accommodation as a cancellation fee, which the consumer was unhappy about.
After contacting the Daily Telegraph, consumer champion Gill Charlton asked the UK ECC for our opinion. Saturday's article (28 October 2017) gave the UK ECC's web address and phone number, adding: "In such cases, there is a useful agency which UK citizens can turn to for legal advice - the UK European Consumer Centre."
The UK ECC advised: "No money actually has to change hands for there to be a contract. There does need to be an agreement or a commitment to pay for a contract to be formed."
We said that we would need to see all of the consumer's paperwork in order to make a full legal assessment. The consumer would need to contact the UK ECC direct in order for that to happen.
We also advised that: "Potentially there could be a contract if a consumer has accepted an offer. By not going through with it, there could be a breach of contract by the consumer. In cases of accommodation, there is usually no right to change your mind unless this is stated in the terms and conditions. Ultimately only a court can decide on whether there is a contract and whether the consumer has any obligation to make a payment."
Contact the UK ECC if you have a dispute over a villa booking - 01268 886690 or via www.ukecc.net