DO YOU READ ONLINE TERMS AND CONDITIONS WHEN BOOKING TRAVEL?
You might want to if you book hotels online. As with a lot of online purchases, there is always some fine print, but hoteliers have taken it to the max with 2200-word documents (Marriott) or 6200 word documents (Hilton) that you are agreeing to with threatening consequences for damages or exclusions for personal injury (even death).
You also agree to being sued in a city you may have never visited and they make you waive your rights to a trial by jury.
I continue to recommend that clients not use public websites of any travel supplier. Agency online booking tools don’t have terms anywhere near as restrictive (or scary).
Beware of Website Terms and Conditions
By Mark Pestronk for Travel Weekly
A: The legal risks in using hotel chain websites have increased since 2012. As the public's usage of those websites has grown, their terms and conditions have become more anti-consumer.
"To the maximum extent permitted by law, we ... hereby expressly exclude any liability for ... loss or damage incurred by any user in connection ... with the use, inability to use, or results of the use of our Sites ... including, without limitation any liability for loss of income or revenue; loss of business; loss of profits or contracts; loss of anticipated savings; loss of data; loss of goodwill; wasted management or office time; and for any other loss or damage of any kind, however arising and whether caused by tort (including negligence), breach of contract or otherwise, even if foreseeable ...."
While some readers may think that these disclaimers relate only to using the website, it is clear to me that they also relate to the hotel stay that you book online. The phrase "results of the use of our websites" must mean your hotel stay.
Although there is an exclusion for personal injury or death or some property damage, anything else that happens during your hotel stay, such as overbooking or overcharging, is subject to this disclaimer. The disclaimer for "wasted management or office time" is unique and amusing; it must have been inserted when companies complained that their employees spent too much time on the website.
The other major chains' online terms and conditions are just as anti-consumer, so I don't mean to single out Marriott. Hilton's online terms are 6,200 words long and require that suits be brought only in Virginia.
I continue to recommend that agencies advise their clients not to use public websites of any travel suppliers. Corporate travel managers should also advise their travelers of the risks involved.
Notably, when you use an agency's online booking tool, you are not subject to these terms, and, as far as I know, no agency has online terms that are anywhere near as onerous as the major chains' terms.