NSW Fair Trading Minister, Matthew Mason-Cox has urged consumers to take time to understand their rights when it comes to booking holiday accommodation, following a near 7% rise in complaints about hotels and resorts.

“Every year, NSW Fair Trading receives many complaints about motels, hotels and resorts, ranging from cancellation issues through to hotel accommodation being misrepresented,’’ Mason-Cox said.

“Last year was no different, with NSW Fair Trading receiving 437 consumer complaints in the 12 months up to 24 November, 2014. That compares to 409 complaints lodged in the previous corresponding period.

“It’s important that consumers know they have rights if something goes wrong with their holiday accommodation and that they have options to deal with disputes,” he said.

Mason-Cox said several complaints had come from consumers who had purchased ‘secret deal’ offers.

He said one complaint involved a mystery destination accommodation package.

“The hotel on the Gold Coast was supposed to come with an ocean view, but instead overlooked a construction zone,” Mason-Cox said. “There was mould throughout the bathroom, the pool and the spa were dirty, and the tennis court was out of service.

“After the consumer complained to the regulator, NSW Fair Trading negotiated a partial refund with the trader.”

Mason-Cox encouraged consumers to stand up for a fair deal.

“Know your rights under the Australian Consumer Law,” he said. “Goods and services must be of an acceptable quality and match the description, sample or demonstration provided.

“It is equally important that hotel operators do the right thing by consumers and properly display all term and conditions, as well as provide accurate information about the quality and service of the hotel.

“The Australian Consumer Law is clear – it is an offence to make false and misleading representations about a product and service. The same laws apply to hotel operators,” he said.

Depending on the specific ACL breaches, hotel and motel operators can face penalties of up to AUD$1.1 million for corporations and AUD$220,000 for individuals.

“If you encounter problems contact NSW Fair Trading for assistance. NSW Fair Trading has a strong track record in resolving complaints, with more than 90 per cent of complaints resolved without tribunal or court action.”

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management