P&O cruise price promise criticised

Updated: 

Aurora

Some passengers have complained that a price promise for those who book cruises with P&O a long time in advance contain an exclusion that they argue effectively renders the promise worthless.

So what are they complaining about, and can you trust price guarantees?


Complaints

The passengers contacted the BBC's Moneybox programme, to express their dissatisfaction with the deal. The way it works is that if the company's Vantage fare is reduced closer to the date of departure, the passenger will be offered an extra benefit - such as a cabin upgrade or services on-board.

However, several passengers contacted the programme and said that after booking their cruise up to six months in advance, they later saw the same cruise advertised at less than half the price. However, they were not offered any extra benefits, and when they requested a refund for the difference it was refused.

P&O argues that these lower prices are Getaway fares, which are not comparable to the Vantage fares. The Getaway fares are the very low-priced fares that the cruise company will tend to sell at the last-minute in order to fill the ship. The fact that these fares are excluded is explained clearly on the website, and it is sticking by its own rules.

The cruise company told the programme "With Vantage fares, passengers pay a 15 per cent deposit, are able to choose the cabin type, location and number, and can choose from an additional benefit such as on-board spending money or complimentary car parking. When bookings are made on a Getaway fare, passengers are not able to select the cabin type or location and there are no additional benefits."

However, travel industry website, TTG Digital, said that P&O Cruises has pledged to review how these deals are marketed, to ensure there can be no misunderstanding.

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Key questions

It's a useful reminder, that when we see something marketed as a guaranteed low price - or guaranteed to be cheapest - we need to make sure we ask five key questions to ensure we are getting the best possible deal:

1. Do you compare against all the other products and services you sell?
This would highlight the P&O exclusion - where different tariffs or fares will not be compared against each other.

2. Which of your competitors do you compare against?
The supermarkets all have price promises, but they all have specific terms and conditions. If you have a local discount supermarket, none of the big players compare against them, so cannot be guaranteed to be cheaper.

3. Will you match online prices?
Some will only compare on the high street, or with stores within a specific distance. John Lewis, for example, will not match online prices.

4. Is there a time limit?
In most cases you have a specific period of time when the guarantee applies, so make sure you do your comparisons before the deal expires.

5. What price is the guarantee based on on?
Take Richer Sounds, for example, if you can show a cheaper price elsewhere, it'll take up to £100 off the cost. However, if you buy a TV it will add on the cost of its five year warranty, and price match against a competitor plus their five year warranty. It doesn't matter whether or not you intend to buy the cover, it's just designed to weed out competitors who make their money on the warranties.

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