UK: Multiple bookings made through Hoseasons and Cottages.com have been cancelled last minute, provoking anger from affected guests.
The sites noted that a system overload led to a lack of booking confirmations and the resulting string of double bookings and cancellations.
The most notable guest affected by these was former children’s poetry laureate Michael Rosen, who only recently recovered from a bout with COVID-19. Rosen and his family booked a property in Somerset for a week, but received an email four days before their trip saying it had been cancelled for no reason.
Emma-Louise Williams, Rosen’s wife, said to The Guardian: “They gave no reason, did not answer their phone or respond to emails. It is very disappointing,”
Williams was eventually told that the property had been withdrawn by the owner and rebooked, a common cause for the cancellations. The websites announced a delay in balance payments until mid-July but did not announce instances where money was not collected and bookings were resold.
Cottages.com said that, when lockdown initially eased in June, the website saw a 455 per cent increase in traffic, causing significant technical problems. Awaze UK, owner of both Cottages.com and Hoseasons, added that technical issues and demand spikes led to the aforementioned balance payment issues.
Henrik Kjellberg, chief executive at Awaze, said: “Though we expected demand to resurface as UK travel restrictions were lifted, we didn’t plan for a tenfold increase, which is what we’ve experienced on some of our platforms in recent weeks. Our systems didn’t scale to the level we needed them to and this regrettably caused some duplicate bookings to occur.”
The company has offered refunds and compensation to some guests including £250 to the Rosen family and £5,000 in contributions to another guest’s replacement. It also said it would offer alternative accommodation at the same price or a full refund if there was no availability, but some customers have said this has not materialised.
Awaze was investigated by the CMA earlier this year after refusing to provide refunds for lockdown affected bookings. The company has since backed down due to concerns that its stance may have breached consumer law.