GRACE ON THE CASE: I run a B&B and take reservations with Booking.com - but the website is refusing to hand over funds it has taken on 'my behalf'

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I run a small B&B in Devon and have been using Booking.com since October 2020.

In order to encourage guests to book, and for hosts to supposedly make more money, Booking.com opt hosts in to what they call ‘opportunites’, one of which is the virtual credit card scheme.

On booking, the guest pays Booking.com and the host is able to collect the money a day after they arrive. 

Unfortunately, I and many other hosts are unable to take payments this way and only discovered this after travellers had booked.

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I had eight customers book via this method before I realised I couldn’t get the money.

I am now owed over £2,459 by Booking.com and I seem to have no way of getting hold of it.

The website keeps putting me off and it’s now been months without the funds. How can I get my money? S.F., via email

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: While your guests might be going on a summer holiday, your experience with Booking.com has been a bumpy ride.

You added your B&B onto Booking.com last year to advertise your property more widely during the pandemic.

The online travel site set up your profile with a virtual credit card scheme which are temporary, digital Mastercards that it uses to pay hosts for bookings that guests pay for on its platform.

GRACE ON THE CASE

Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

grace.gausden@thisismoney.co.uk

These function like regular credit cards and Booking.com said they ‘give hosts guaranteed payouts’ from the company.

However, the site holds onto the money and passes it on to the hosts only a day after the guest arrives at the property.

As soon as your property went live, you received eight bookings via the website with customers paying upfront.

The total cost of these reservations came to £2,459.  

After you tried to take payment on the first one, you found that Zettle by PayPal, the payment system you use, doesn’t allow virtual credit card payments.

You got in touch with Booking.com in June and were told it was a simple task to transfer the money that Booking.com had collected on your behalf back to you.

However, the firm said you had missed the payment date and advised you would have to wait until 17 July to receive the funds.

This date came and went but no money was received. Similarly, 17 August and 17 September passed with no money being transferred to you.

Throughout this time you have been paying 15 per cent commission to Booking.com for these and other reservations as if you do not, you say you have been threatened with your account being suspended and guests not being able to book.

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While you have tried to contact the firm, you say emails go unanswered or are answered by automatically generated messages.

Meanwhile, when phones are answered it is by someone with no power to help.

You add you now contact them daily pointing out you have made 16 phone calls and written 15 emails over three months, updating the figures every day.

I contacted Booking.com to find out what was causing the delay to your payment as you have had no information from the company and have been waiting months for a payment.

A spokesperson of Booking.com said: ‘Our primary aim at Booking.com is to provide an easy-to-use platform that enables our accommodation partners to seamlessly manage and grow their business with us, and we strive to address any potential challenges that may arise as quickly as possible.

‘This means enabling travelers to pay for their trips with their preferred local payment methods and in turn providing that payment to our partners in a way they can easily manage. 

‘All of our partners have the option to manage payments themselves, but many make the decision for us to manage it on their behalf, whether that’s a reservation with an upfront deposit or with payment due at the time of stay. 

‘Unfortunately, due to a technical issue we were unable to process this partner’s payout on time. We have apologised for the inconvenience and are ensuring that they receive this outstanding payment shortly.’ 

Fortunately, you have been promised the funds by the end of this week and can hopefully receive more reservations – albeit through a different method – without having to keep wasting your time chasing your money.

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Tui not refunding despite cancer diagnosis 

My friend who I’m booked to go abroad with via Tui has been diagnosed with breast cancer at just 25. 

She is having to have chemotherapy which means she won’t be able to go on the holiday.

I called two different lines for the travel firm but both gave conflicting information regarding the refund. One said we can have full refund whilst the other said we can but will lose £250 each. Which is correct? J.M., via email 

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: Firstly, I’m very sorry to hear about your friend’s diagnosis and wish her all the best.

Secondly, Tui is no stranger to this column. You were both originally meant to travel to Morocco in July but your holiday was cancelled by Tui mid-June. 

You were given a 20 per cent incentive to rebook so you booked to go to Mexico on 26 January 2022, returning on 3 February.

You originally paid £601.90 each for the Morocco holiday which was then uplifted by 20 per cent with your new Mexico holiday costing £882.60 with £160 each left to settle.

However, due to the unfortunate circumstances, you had to cancel the trip.  

At first, TUI said you could rebook but, as a result of cancellation, you would lose the incentive with the firm advising it would not be able to issue another discount code or voucher.

Another alternative put forward by the travel company was to take a refund but this came with the stipulation that Tui would keep £250 per passenger, again, as a result of the cancellation. 

This conflicting information was adding stress to you and your friend – who needs to focus on her health – therefore you got in touch with me.

I spoke to Tui to ask why a full refund has not been offered – and why so much differing advise was being handed out. 

A Tui spokesperson said: ‘We’re very sorry for the confusion over this booking. We have apologised for the mistake that was made and have now issued a full refund.’

You and your friend have both now received the £761.90 each which will hopefully go some small way to easing your friends mind in this difficult time and I hope one day in the near future you will be able to have a fantastic holiday together.

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

Miss: Netflix are under the microscope this week after reader, Andrea, complained about the streaming service.

She said: ‘I have just had a horrendous experience with Netflix which I have had since 2016. I noticed two payments had gone out through Paypal this month for two different amounts to Netflix so queried it.

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‘When I contacted Netflix, it told me my account was compromised in January 2020 but it did not advise me at the time. A secondary account was set up with the same email and password but I didn’t know.

‘Since then, two payments have been claimed every month but I have only just noticed which, whilst an oversight on my part, still shouldn’t have been happening. I would have expected Netflix to refund the double charged payments but it has refused.

‘It has only refunded the second payment for July. I am out of pocket by £134.82 and the customer service I received was appalling. Any help would be much appreciated.’

I contacted Netflix about this as it seemed unfair you had been paying for two accounts after being hacked – and that it would only refund one month. 

Fortunately, it agreed to refund you the full amount. However, the streaming site said it advises against password reuse on multiple websites as it can be risky. 

It added, if a member notices any unusual activity on their account, they should contact Netflix immediately. 

Hit: In better news, this week, reader Ali, praised the service from her home insurance company, Homelet.

She said: ‘I just rang to cancel my home insurance policy as I am moving house. It was literally the least painful interaction with customer service I have ever had.

‘They let me leave the policy with no pressure and the whole thing only took two minutes from ringing to cancellation.’ 

It seems Homelet have the key to success when it comes to customer service. 

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