Published on Friday, January 4, 2013

Agent error costs retailer thousands of pounds

Thomas Cook has been forced to pay more than £12,000 to a client who was given incorrect information about cabin sizes on a Baltic cruise, even though the retailer had given him the option to cancel free of charge when the error was spotted on the same day the booking was made.

Customer Barry McKay chose instead to continue with the original cruise but paid an additional £12,247 to upgrade one of the two cabins on the inaugural cruise of Cunard's Queen Elizabeth in 2010.

Slough County Court ordered Cook to repay McKay the £12,247 plus interest after ruling that a "collateral contract" had been made between Thomas Cook and the customer as a result of an initial conversation between McKay and one of its cruise sales reps.

Thomas Cook does not intend to appeal, but it said that as the judgment was made in a County Court it was not binding on other courts.

A spokesman said: "With over 6 million passengers booking their holiday through Thomas Cook each year, on rare occasions genuine mistakes can happen. 

"As in this case, we do everything we can to rectify them but Mr McKay decided to pay the additional cost to upgrade one of the cabins he booked, continue with his holiday and obtain recourse through the County Court.

" Whilst we are disappointed by the outcome it was made clear that this decision was reached on the particular facts of this case and that there would not necessarily be the same outcome in other cases where an agent has made an error."


By Linsey McNeill

Story Image

Your Comments

, be the first to post a comment.
Your email:

Email other comments made to this story
Code Request a new picture 5 characters

NOTE: Comments are subject to admin approval before being posted.
  • A CORRECT and IMPORTANT JUDGEMENT that Travel Agents should note:

    A CORRECT and IMPORTANT JUDGEMENT that Travel Agents should note: The facts were that this booking was made by telephone by customer to Thomas Cook's dedicated cruise line. The call was made just minutes after customer received a mail-shot from Thomas Cook, advertising this cruise, in morning post. Customer did not have a Cunard brochure and therefore relied on information supplied by Thomas Cook on the telephone, especially confirmation by Thomas Cook of actual size of cabin being sold. Specific facts are as follows: 1) that customer made it clear that size of cabin was important BEFORE booking cruise and was assured that cabin was of a certain size. Had customer not been assured that cabin was the size needed, customer would not have purchased the cruise, after all, cabin sizes vary enormously. 2) Thomas Cook claim to be "THE Cruise Experts" and customer was entitled to believe their pre-contract assurances in reliance on which customer proceeded with a purchase of an expensive cruise. 3) customer then provided credit card details authorising Thomas Cook to take the substantial cost of the entire cruise in advance and the terms and conditions of the contract stated that if customer wanted to cancel at any point thereafter, customer would have to pay a penalty of 45% of cost of cruise 4) customer informed his family that he had booked a Baltic cruise holiday for them to visit Russia on new Cunard Queen Elisabeth shortly after concluding contract 5) then, following contract, Thomas Cook, "The Cruise Experts" later telephoned customer to explain that they had made an error and unfortunately had undercharged customer. Even though customer was unable to cancel without paying a 45% penalty under terms of contract (if customer later had a change of heart), being a reasonable person, customer allowed Thomas Cook to increase the cost of the cruise...and paid the increased cost 6) later that day customer went on to the internet to have a look at position of the accommodation booked. The cabins looked smaller than expected so customer called Thomas Cook to double check. Thomas Cook reconfirmed the size of the cabins as being the size quoted at the time of booking. Customer went back to Cunard web-site and as cabin indication size did not make sense, customer telephoned Cunard to check that cabin bought was of the size quoted. 7) after finally being informed of the actual cabin size of cabins by Cunard (well over 500 sq ft was missing), customer telephoned Thomas Cook back to explain he was not at all happy that in fact the size of cabin much smaller than customer had been led to believe at the time of booking. Thomas Cook then admitted that a mistake had occurred but looked to blame Cunard's brochure for this, stating that Cunard had got it wrong as the brochure was incorrect. On further investigation, customer found that Cunard"s brochure was in fact accurate, Cunard was not in any way at fault but that Thomas Cook, "The cruise experts" had made not one error but three errors.....firstly by undercharging then raising cost; secondly by "grossly mis-selling" cabin based on incorrect size and finally by blaming Cunard for their error. Thomas Cook eventually offered customer a full refund but having by then wasted an entire working day over this and having earlier (following making the booking) given his wife full details of the bought and paid for holiday, customer did not want a refund. 8) when customer spoke to Cunard again about the problem he had experienced with Thomas Cook he was told, by Cunard, that size of cabin booked was far smaller than Thomas Cook had stated and Cunard told customer that he had been "grossly mis-sold" the cruise. This comment by Cunard came out in evidence and was not at any time challenged by Thomas Cook 9) Thomas Cook offered the customer an even smaller cabin (a ridiculous offer) or a bigger cabin for which they asked customer to pay them more money, or if he did not want to pay more (again) then the customer could have a refund....even though had customer tried to cancel cruise (perhaps for a personal reason) customer would have lost 45% of holiday cost by way of penalty 10) customer wasted a second full working day dealing with what should have been a good experience, booking a holiday. He had told his family they were going on a cruise, he did not want to let them down. Customer therefore did as Thomas Cook suggested and upgraded, paying them more BUT "Reserving his rights." In English law, the reserving of rights means something as Thomas Cook were well aware. 11) the judge found for the customer after hearing two members of Thomas Cook's cruise staff give evidence. The customer was quite rightly awarded his full claim and legal costs Too many people are messed about by big companies who are supposed to be experts in their field but who get away with incompetence. More consumers should take a stand however large companies too often refuse to accept their responsibilities, relying on the fact that it is very expensive for customers to take legal action. In this case, the customer quite rightly took legal action and Thomas Cook ended up paying out in excess of £50,000 including costs.

    By David M Mason, Wednesday, January 9, 2013

  • Is Mr McKay American...

    ...perchance? Sadly the stupid US civil claims system has been sneaked in to replace the UK's long established and perfectly adequate system. Now plaintiffs can sue for a specific figure - rather than the damages' being assessed as used to be the case - which is why we now see so many "no-win, no-fee" lawyers adverts. Under the old UK system he'd probably have simply been refunded the money he had paid - and would probably have paid his own costs. Indeed, he'd not have even brought the action. And since courts have no money of their own, where do the damages and costs come from? From the defendent of course. And where does the defendent get the money? From its customers of course. So it is Thomas Cook's other customers who are paying this avaricious person's award and costs.

    By Richard English, Saturday, January 5, 2013

  • Customer & Judge should be ashamed !

    According to the report he had the option to change or canx same day, knew what he was doing, no common decency... Judge ?? really ? industry should refuse to accept his bkngs in future, bad client !

    By Mark Harris, Friday, January 4, 2013

Mole Poll
Its half way through the year. Has 2018 been better than expected for your Travel business?
YES 53.48 %
NO 46.52 %

Thank you for your vote

Move scroll bar (above) left to right for more videos!