Pontins rapped for 'kitchen' with no sink or oven

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Pontins

Pontins has been taken to task by the Advertising Standards Agency, after promoting self-catering chalets, which had no oven or sink - and essentially just consisted of a toaster, a microwave and a fridge in a bedroom. They have been ordered to change their misleading brochures.

But what can you do if your holiday accommodation lets you down?

The ban

The complaint related to the Pakefield Pontins resort in Suffolk. The brochure clearly advertised self-catering chalets. The text said: "Get the flexibility of using our fantastic restaurants and food outlets which give you the ability to prepare and cook your mealsin [sic] the comfort of your own Apartment".

There were pictures alongside the text, which showed a kitchen, with a hob, oven and sink. There were also three footprint plans of apartments - all showing a defined kitchen area with an oven and a sink.

However, when the complainant arrived, they found their 'fitted kitchen' was just a microwave, toaster and fridge - all squashed into one of the bedrooms.

In its defence Pontins said that some of the apartments in the park had a hob and a sink - although it admitted that most didn't. It added that small print in the brochure had said "The new apartments shown in the images are examples and used for illustrative purposes only". And it said that there was more information on the website - and that call centre staff made the facilities clear at the time of booking.

However, the ASA wasn't convinced. It said that most reasonable people would have read the brochure and expect a kitchen - so it was misleading.

Your rights

So what can you do if you think your holiday company was misleading about the accommodation?

By far your best bet is to make your complaint while you are away, to enable the hotel or rep to put things right. If you don't do this, you may not be able to do anything about it on your return, because they can argue that you didn't say anything at the time. When you make your complaint, make sure you do so in writing and keep a copy.

You should also collate as much evidence as possible, including a diary, photos or video evidence, the names and addresses of other holidaymakers who can support your claim, and receipts of any money you had to spend because of the issue.

On your return the complaints procedure varies from company to company, but you will need to contact the tour operator. You'll have to act fast, because most stipulate that complaints have to be made within 4 weeks.

You will need to follow their official procedure, and lay out your complaint in writing - along with your evidence and clear information about how much compensation you are asking for. The consumer organisation Which? says that they can be obstructive, so you will need to persevere if you are fobbed off.

If the tour operator is a member of Abta, you can contact them and use their arbitration service to secure an agreement

If you booked with a credit card you have protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if something goes awry - as long as it cost between £100 and £30,000. Even if you only paid the deposit by credit card you will still be covered. You need to contact your card company and make your claim.

Failing all that, you may need to go through the small claims court - providing you are dealing with someone in the UK, that the holiday firm is still trading, and that you have enough evidence to prove they breached their contract with you.

This is not as daunting as it may seem, and is designed to be something you can navigate without the help of a lawyer. You can ask Citizens Advice to help you prepare for the case if you need a helping hand.

Protect yourself

It's no help to those who are already dealing with a problem, but by far the best solution is to check before you travel. There are plenty of websites which enable you to check out a company, resort or hotel before you go.

It's worth putting aside 30 minutes to read through reviews - both from users of the tour operator and through sites like Trip Advisor, which are independent. The reviews will vary wildly depending on the individuals and their specific circumstances, so make sure you read enough to get a clear picture of the accommodation and service before you travel.