Sidmouth Hotel Riviera demanded dead woman's fee

Hotel Riviera
Image caption The Riviera Hotel said it was "sympathetic" to the family's "very sad circumstances"

A hotel instructed solicitors to reclaim £1,200 from the estate of a dead woman whose booking was cancelled.

Rebecca Wagstaffe's mother Anthea Shaw planned a stay at the Hotel Riviera in Sidmouth in June as a "final holiday" after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Mrs Wagstaffe cancelled six weeks ahead of the planned trip - and three weeks before her mother's death - and was told to pay "full cancellation fees".

The Devon hotel has offered to cancel the fee if she withdraws her complaint.

It maintains the cancellation was "short notice".

Mrs Wagstaffe, from Bath, said she was "flabbergasted" and has rejected the offer.

Mrs Shaw, 65, was diagnosed with cancer in January and the family decided to give her a "final holiday".

They picked the Hotel Riviera for a five-night stay after a recommendation from a friend and paid a deposit of £150 for a booking for 22-27 June.

But Mrs Shaw's condition deteriorated and the booking was cancelled in early May.

Mrs Wagstaffe phoned the hotel and spoke to a receptionist to cancel the booking.

Mrs Shaw died on 31 May.

About a month after the holiday was due to start, she got a letter from the hotel's solicitors saying the room could not be re-let and customers had been advised to take out travel insurance.

The solicitors said: "The cancellation in this matter was entirely beyond the hotel's control and yet you expect the hotel to bear the loss of £1,266.67 arising from the customer's decision not to follow the very sensible advice provided at the outset."

Image caption Anthea Shaw's family had intended to give her a "final holiday"

They wrote that they would cancel the demand and refund the £150 deposit dependent on her "withdrawing entries and complaints such as to (travel review website) Trip Advisor".

The letter also stated they could "proceed with recovery action" if the money was not paid within 14 days.

Mrs Wagstaffe said: "They are threatening me. They are obviously embarrassed and ashamed about their business practices and they don't want it communicated any further.

"In the memory of my mother I will continue to fight them until I get an apology because this is unacceptable."

'Polite request'

The hotel said in a statement: "It is standard practice across the industry to invoice and recover cancellation charges.

"A polite and sympathetic request was sent to Mrs Wagstaffe by the hotel and subsequently by the hotel's solicitors without success.

"Whilst the hotel is entirely sympathetic to the very sad circumstances surrounding this matter, the hotel can do nothing more than to offer a full refund and is very disappointed this has not been accepted."

The British Hospitality Association said it would always advise customers to read cancellation procedures at the time of booking and take out appropriate insurance where possible.

"Likewise accommodation providers need to have a clear and simple cancellation policy that they tell customers about at the time of booking," a spokesperson said.

"Devon and Cornwall are full of fantastic hoteliers who want to do the right thing for customers and help them to have wonderful holidays in the region."

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