But no one told me about this $215 cancellation fee

When Nikki McCollum cancels her Booking.com rental in Rome, she’s shocked to learn about a $215 cancellation fee. Did they disclose the charge — and does she have to pay?

Question: I booked an apartment in Rome through Booking.com for next month. I did not see any cancellation policy on the website. After I booked the apartment and gave my credit card number, the cancellation policy was in plain sight.

I had to cancel the booking in January and was charged a $215 cancellation fee. Upon further investigation, I found a button labeled “more information,” which hid the cancellation policy.

I feel it is deceptive to hide it before the credit card is given. I booked another hotel the same day through Booking.com and their policy was in plain view from the beginning, so I assumed it was the same. Their policy stated that I could cancel up to 72 hours before the booking date.

I’d like a complete refund of $215. Can you help me? — Nikki McCollum, Tucson, Ariz.

Answer: Booking.com should have disclosed the cancellation policy up front rather than waiting until after you finished your reservation.

You didn’t take screenshots of your reservation, so I don’t know what the confirmation looked like, but it doesn’t really matter. If the cancellation policy wasn’t prominently brought to your attention, which it wasn’t, you have a problem — and I have a problem.

Actually, I also have a problem with a $215 cancellation fee. Under what circumstances would a guest cancellation cost a hotel $215, and particularly if they were able to re-sell the apartment? These fees are simply out of control. You gave Booking.com months to resell the unit, so the refund should have been automatic and painless.

Related story:   A filthy room at the inn

But even if you can justify charging a $215 fee — and I’m not saying you can — then it’s still imperative that you tell the customer before the booking is complete.

Not after. Not during.

Before.

Now, I’m sure we’ll hear from the “rules-are-rules” readers who will point out that technically, Booking.com buries the terms in fine print before you finish your reservation, and that it was up to you to discover and review said terms.

That’s nonsense. If there’s a cancellation fee, or any fee, you deserve to know about it right up front. The company must hit you over the head with it. If it’s going to sock you with a surcharge, that’s the only way to go.

A member of our advocacy team contacted Booking.com on your behalf. A representative agreed to reduce your cancellation fee to $150, which you accepted.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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