You are not alone in using online reviews to help you make a decision on where to stay. When considering online reviews for trips and venues, it is important to check where the information has come from – whether it is an impartial organisation, a consumer, a number of consumers, or from a blogger who may have been paid for the review.
Before booking, you should look for credible opinions from trusted sources and try not to rely on one review or one source of reviews only.
In relation to your entitlements, issues with services such as B&B accommodation may fall under either a faulty service or poor customer service provided by the staff – or sometimes it can be both.
Where the service is not provided in line with any owner’s description of the service, or if it does not provide the normal quality and performance that can be reasonably expected, this may be deemed a faulty service. In this instance, the B&B provided you with what you paid for (that is, bed and breakfast) and so, in general terms, you may not be entitled to a full refund for this reason.
If you feel the service provided to you was not in line with what was advertised by the owner – or if you are unhappy with the level of customer service provided by the B&B – you can make a complaint and set out what you want the B&B to do as a result (if you did not do so when you stayed).
When making a complaint, you should do so in writing and include evidence to support it – for example, photographs and copies of any correspondence with the B&B.
Following this, if you are not satisfied with the response, you can check whether the B&B is part of a trade or tourism association. If it is, the association may have a customer service charter which includes a complaints procedure.
If you are not satisfied after making a complaint, where you feel the service was faulty and where you are at a financial loss as a result, you may be able to make an application through the Small Claims Procedure (SCP). The SCP is designed to deal with consumer claims up to €2,000, and the current fee for making a claim through it is €25.
More advice on how to spot a fake online review, your consumer rights with services and the SCP is available from the ccpc.ie website.
College loan guidance
Q: I have just started university and it is my first time living away from home. I have money saved to pay a deposit for accommodation and my first few months’ rent – but after that I’ll need to find a part-time job. With the workload for my course and exams, I am worried that I won’t be able to work too many hours so I am thinking about getting a loan to supplement my income. I was hoping to work abroad next summer to earn enough money to pay back my loan and have some savings for my second year in university. I know that most banks do student loans – but what should I look out for? Alan, Co Longford
Going to college is an expensive time – whether you are staying at home or moving away. Before you consider borrowing money, your first step should be to check whether you are entitled to a grant. Before you make a decision about whether you need a loan, take a step back and work out how much you need to spend each week or month. When working out your budget, always allow for some unexpected expenses.
Once you have drawn up a realistic budget, if you feel that you may need to borrow money to get by during the college year, there are a number of options available, such as personal loans, overdrafts and credit cards.
If you decide to take out a student loan, don’t just approach the bank where you have your current account.
There is a money tool on ccpc.ie where you can see all the student loans on the market. As well as looking at the interest rates from different providers, think about the term of the loan, whether there are flexible repayment options, and whether the loan can be repaid all in one go (such as after you’ve earned money next summer) – without triggering a penalty charge.
For anyone borrowing money, it is important to remember that if you don’t meet your agreed repayments schedule, it will affect your credit record. This will make it more difficult to get a loan, credit card or mortgage in the future.
TV contract woes
Q: I signed up for a new TV provider last April. The contract was for 12 months and I had to pay an installation fee. The package had a range of channels – including the sports channels. Last month, my provider contacted me to tell me that it will no longer be providing the sports channels as part of my TV package. However, the monthly cost is staying the same. The provider has said my contract states the channels can be changed. Can I insist that it provides the sports channels – as that is the initial contract I signed? I still have six months left on my contract. I can cancel it, but would I get my installation fee back if I did that? Colm, Co Kildare
The first thing you can do is to check what is covered in the terms and conditions of the contract you signed. If the provider has, as stated, included the condition providing it with the right to change the channels at any time, you are bound by those terms and conditions.
However, if the provider is not abiding by its own terms and conditions, this may be deemed a breach of contract and you might have the opportunity to renegotiate the agreement – or exit the contract without penalty.
If you believe the trader is in breach of the agreed terms and conditions, you can make a formal complaint in writing, either in a letter or by email. You can review the complaints process on the provider’s website.
If you decide to cancel the contract, you will once again need to check the terms and conditions to find out your rights to cancel and the notice you must give your provider.
Unfortunately, the installation fee you paid was part of the overall package and not specifically for the sports channels, so it is unlikely you will be entitled to a refund.
If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the provider and believe that you are at a monetary loss, a final option that may be available to you is the SCP.
Áine Carroll is director of communications and policy with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Sunday Indo Business