Online bookings must clarify obligation to pay, says EU Supreme Court


Hotels in the online system must have “easily readable and unambiguous” booking buttons in case people are liable for charges, the European Union’s top court has said.

According to a report by Court House News, a case linked to the Court of Justice of the EU by a German court has recently caused controversy.

In this case, the defendant, whose name has not been made public, pointed out that it was not clear on the German site Booking.com that he was obliged to pay for his hotel rooms.

He said such a thing happened after he failed to show up for his vacation due to the button wording being unclear, reports SchengenVisaInfo.com.

According to the decision of the Luxembourg court, “Reservation sites must ensure that the consumer, when ordering, explicitly acknowledges that the order involves an obligation to pay.

The report says Hotel Goldener Anker charged the anonymous defendant 2,240 euros after he and his friend failed to show up for their five-night stay in Krummhörn-Greetsiel, in 2019.

The defendant had booked the four hotel rooms through the online travel agency Booking.com.

The German version of the website shows that the defendant selected the “buchung abschließen” or “full reservation” button in order to confirm his accommodation after giving his personal details and travel dates. Shortly after, when he ignored the bill, the hotel sued the local court, the Bottrop District Court.

According to the report, the court asked the Court of Justice whether the wording of the button complied with EU regulations governing consumer protection.

Consumers in EU countries are highly protected against fraud or shady commercial transactions, while based on the Consumer Rights Directive of 2011, businesses are required to clearly inform consumers before they are not required to pay for an order.

Judges in Germany had doubts whether the button should read “zahlungspflichtig bestellen” or “order with obligation to pay”, instead, after according to them, in Germany the word “reservation” does not necessarily mean that ‘there is an obligation to pay after that’ can also refer to a pre-order or a reservation.

However, the national court has still not issued a final decision in this regard.

“The referring court will have to verify in particular whether the term ‘reservation’ is, in German, both in everyday language and in the mind of the average consumer[…]necessarily and systematically associated with the creation of an obligation to pay”, pointed out the judges.

According to Courthouse News, the case will now return to the Bottrop District Court for a final decision.

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