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Check terms and conditions when handing over a deposit

We received this e-mail from a ValueIreland.com which shows the pitfalls that you could encounter when paying over a deposit for anything – a holiday in this case.

I’m having awful trouble with <name withheld> at the moment, I booked my honeymoon (of flights, accommodation & cruise) and paid a deposit of €500 with them back in Sept.

When I was trying to log onto the Royal Caribbean website to view my information it wouldn’t show up so I contacted them about it. When the girl came back to me it turned out that they never booked my cruise only held it and then it when back into the system so I lost my cabin.

Now they have none of the same cabins available and were trying to fob me off with some other room that I didn’t want so when I said I wanted to cancel my trip. They said they could only give me €250 back out of my €500 deposit as a good will gesture. They even reckon they don’t have to give me anything at all, even though they never booked my flights or accommodation as it’s for Jan 10 and they made the mistake.

I am so annoyed with them I contacted consumer affairs about it and they said I was right to get my money back so I’m waiting to hear back <name withheld>……just looking for some advice from yourselves.

Our immediate response wasn’t very positive. It all depends on what terms and conditions were in place when the deposit was handed over. If there were none specified, then it’s really down to a case of negotiations rather than anything specific having to happen.

I was interested to try to find out who the “consumer affairs” organisation was that said they should get their full deposit back – maybe the Consumers Association of Ireland or the National Consumer Agency. I don’t think that that’s a valid response in this scenario (unless they got more background information that I did).

It’s vitally important that if you’re handing over a deposit to a company then you should make sure that you agree with them upfront as to when the deposit could be returned, and when it could be withheld by the company.

But another complication in the current environment is that you should be wary about giving deposits to companies that might not be in business much longer. If you hand over a deposit, like vouchers, to a business that closes down then you become an “unsecured creditor” and join the back of the queue to get your money back.

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