Pontins has been slammed by angry holidaymakers after they found their breaks cancelled and the deals raised in price by 15 times the discounted amount. Only the weekend holidays during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee have been cancelled after being booked back in January. Many customers had taken advantage of a deal for Brean Sands resort breaks for just £33.07.
The holiday deal had been picked up by Hot UK Deals in January, and hundreds of users who booked the breaks discussed the offer. However, Pontins now claims that the price was a mistake – an error due to a computer glitch. The company has cancelled all of them and raised their prices to £550.
Furious customers say that Pontins recognised the error and said back in January that it would honour the deal. Speaking to a journalist, 38-year-old Nicky Biggs said she booked the holiday on January 3 as something special for her husband and their three-year-old. She called Pontins the day after to ask about the price of the break, which started on May 31, as she was unsure if it was an error. She claims the company told her that they were aware of the mistake but would honour the booking. She sent the booking form to Pontins and got an acknowledgment statement on January 16.
However, Pontins has now sent emails to customers, notifying them that their breaks are cancelled and offering a refund. Biggs says she’s very disappointed. If they knew about the error and cancelled it in January, it would have been different, but it’s been three months. She received the cancellation email on April 13. It told her that her holiday had been amended, and when she clicked on the link, the page said her break had been cancelled.
Angry holidaymakers have complained about how Pontins has treated them on Hot UK Deals, and some have threatened to approach Watchdog, a consumer rights programme. A Pontins spokesperson has told one newspaper that they apologise to customers that the computer booking system made an error. The cancellations were made as soon as they saw the problem, which has only affected about 17 bookings. Customers are being offered a 50% discount on holidays taken during any other time of the year, they added.
However, holidaymakers say on forums that they should have been notified months ago about the cancellations and claim that several more than 17 bookings were affected. Biggs says that a Pontins staffer wouldn’t tell her exactly how many people’s holidays had been cancelled. However, the lady she asked did say ‘quite a lot’ were.
Eileen Downey, a spokeswoman for Britannia Hotel Group, which owns Pontins, has talked to some of the customers. They say she wasn’t sympathetic at first and is refusing to take calls now. A spokesperson for consumer group Which? says it’s illegal to deliberately give wrong or misleading prices, and Pontins can be prosecuted for cancelling the holidays if this is the case. However, if the product’s price is just mislabelled, customers don’t get to automatically purchase it for that price.
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