THE Sun's Squeeze Team wins back money for readers who have had a refund or billing issue with a company and are struggling to get it resolved.
This week, we helped a woman get back £925 she was billed for alternative accommodation for a guest after she listed her caravan on Booking.com by mistake and it wasn't ready.
Q. I BOUGHT a caravan on the Norfolk Broads to rent to holidaymakers and make ends meet, as I've cut my working hours to care for my husband who has cancer.
I started to draft a listing on Booking.com but it was published by mistake.
A guest booked and showed up before it was ready and I’ve been charged £925 to put them up in a hotel instead.
Is there anything you can do to help me get the money back?
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Rosemary Copsey, Norwich
A. YOUR husband needs one-on-one care most of the time as he's being treated for cancer.
You're a carer by trade, so you decided to cut down your working hours to spend time looking after your husband instead.
To make up the extra income, you took out a loan to buy a static caravan in July with the aim of renting it out to holidaymakers.
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A holiday let sleeping four people in Norfolk typically earns up to £25,000, according to Sykes Cottages' income calculator.
In early August, you started creating a listing on Booking.com, but you found the process so complicated that you gave up and decided to try again later.
But before you knew it, you’d received a flurry of emails from people who seemed to have booked your property.
In a panic, you rang Booking.com but couldn't get through to anyone without a reservation number, so you sent emails instead asking it to remove your listing.
So imagine your horror when you received a call out of the blue from an angry guest who said they were standing outside your property and couldn’t get in.
It turned out they weren’t even at the right place, as the address on your listing was more than 20 miles away from where your caravan actually is.
Someone from Booking.com then rang and accused you of failing to accommodate the guest before hanging up.
You rang this number back and finally managed to speak to a more sympathetic member of staff who helped remove your listing and reassured you that you wouldn’t be billed for the mistake.
But a few days later, you received an invoice for £925 for the guests’ stay in another hotel.
People who use Booking.com should expect to be accommodated if things go wrong.
But I agree that Booking.com has a responsibility to ensure listings on its website are genuine and ready to host guests before advertising them to the public.
You told me you’re just trying to survive as a pensioner and £925 is "like a million pounds" to you and your husband.
If the website had only answered the phone and someone had helped as soon as you reported the unwanted bookings it would have saved you and your guest a lot of stress.
When I spoke to Booking.com, it confirmed it will refund you for the extra accommodation and apologised for the trouble you had using the website.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Having reviewed this specific case and being made aware of the details, we will be reaching out to them directly to offer further assistance.”
In total our Squeeze Team has won back £152,264 for readers.
What can I do if I have problems with Booking.com?
If you're a host on Booking.com and are having trouble with your listing, speak to the company as soon as possible.
Flagging any issues early means you can prove you tried to get it sorted if you have any trouble down the line.
If like Rosemary you list your home by accident, get it taken down as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of people booking the property.
In the UK, the general phone number for Booking.com's office is 020 8612 8159, but it may be quicker to speak to the dedicated host service team on the number listed in your Booking.com account.
There is no one number for every user, so you need to check your individual account.
Go to your "extranet", and then go to the "inbox" tab. Then, select "Booking.com messages".
In the right hand pane, click "see contact options" and then choose "account", followed by "other".
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At the bottom you will see all contact options – click "call" or "message" to reveal the phone number.
If you're a guest and you're having trouble with Booking.com, you can reach the customer services team on 020 3564 6725.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected].
You can also join our new Sun Money Facebook group to share stories and tips and engage with the consumer team and other group members.
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