Never say never

The holiday blues were banished by Merton Council as they secured a conviction against is one of the big three UK holiday companies, for breaking their high profile ‘Never Beaten on Price’ promise to consumers.

Holiday Hypermarket, a subsidiary owned by First Choice Holidays, was fined £2000 and £700 costs by Wimbledon Magistrates on 26 February 2003. The conviction was made largely thanks to the efforts made by the Council’s Trading Standards Department.

The travel agents have a ‘Never Beaten on Price’ promise, which is prominently advertised. The promise says that they will match any quote from competitors. However, as two Sutton residents discovered, this is not always the case.

Karen Rattray and Teresa Wingfield visited Holiday Hypermarket’s outlet in Tandem Retail Park, Colliers Wood in February last year. The pair planned to book a summer holiday to the Italian Riviera for their families. A competitor had already quoted them a price for the holiday, so when the Holiday Hypermarket travel agent quoted a much higher price for exactly the same holiday they asked for the competitor’s price to be matched.

However despite prominently advertising that they are ‘Never Beaten on Price’, and having leaflets describing the offer attached to most of the brochures in-store, the company refused to match the lower cost.

Karen Rattray said: “We expected them to at least match the price and we couldn’t believe it when they told us to go and book with the competitor who had quoted the lower price! I wrote to their Head Office and they replied to say the price beat was not commercially viable. Therefore I contacted Merton’s Trading Standards.”

Ian Murrell, Merton Council’s Commercial and Trading Standards Manager, said: “Price promises are used by many retailers to attract customers and it is important that such promises are honoured when customers try to take advantage of them. Often there are onerous conditions attaching to these price promises.

“In this case the customers met all the conditions required by Holiday Hypermarket, but despite this they still refused to honour their promise. This is a difficult area of law for Trading Standards Officers to enforce and this successful prosecution sends a message to all retailers who make such promises that they must stand by them. Had it not been for the public spirited actions of Ms Rattray and Mrs Wingfield, it would not have been possible to bring this matter to court.”

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