UKICC - grievances about booking intermediaries at all-time high

Complaints about bookings made through intermediaries are at an all-time high, according to the UK International Consumer Centre’s fourth quarter data report of 2021.

A booking intermediary makes a booking with a supplier on the consumer’s behalf but does not provide the actual service themselves.

Cases recorded against booking intermediaries and their activities continued to rise in the fourth quarter data report 2021, up from 372 in the third quarter to 594 in the fourth quarter, a rise of 59.7%.

In fact, we can track the rise in cases if we look at the complaints regarding purchases made through booking intermediaries for the first quarters of 2020 and 2021. They almost doubled from 158 in the first three months of 2020 compared to 301 in the first three months of 2021.

Many of the cases against booking intermediaries relate to problems with a subscription, with at least half of the UKICC’s air travel cases being booked through a booking intermediary or comparison website.

The most common scenario for complaints about flight intermediaries sees a consumer book a flight through an intermediary.  The flight is cancelled by the operator. According to the flight compensation regulation, regulation 261, in this instance a consumer should be refunded within seven days.

In these cases, the airlines refuse to deal with the consumer on the basis that the booking was made by an intermediary, who initially claims they offer no aftersales service. In effect the airlines blame the intermediaries and the intermediaries blame the airlines.

UKICC consumer advisor Laura Johnston said: “We are seeing large numbers of complaints against booking intermediaries, particularly on flights. More recently the intermediaries have agreed to help consumers claim a refund but this often involves charges and often proves ineffective. The UKICC has dealt with numerous consumers who have been waiting in excess of 12 months for refunds.

“Although we previously received complaints about these services, with numerous UK consumers struggling to get refunds for cancelled flights (many of which have been booked via the internet), our fourth quarter 2021 data report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have exacerbated the problem.”

Another common example of a booking intermediary problem is where a UK consumer books a flight through a booking intermediary online and is put into a subscription – something which the consumer says they didn’t want, didn’t need and in fact wanted to cancel.

Laura added: “These are legitimate complaints: consumers have booked flights through the internet and find that they are trapped into something they don’t want.”