Couple’s compensation bid after Morrocan holiday bug

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Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I’ve recently come back from a 10-day holiday in Morocco. The hotel wasn’t up to much and both my partner and I went down with a bug after a few days and spent the rest of the holiday on the loo. The tour operator refuses to compensate us, and we’ve filed a claim in the small claims court. What are our chances of getting compensation?

NP (internet)

A Surprising though it may be, I don’t rate your chance of success in court very high.

I’m sure you know I’m only playing devil’s advocate, but the key issue will be the precise nature of the illness. Stomach upsets come in many forms and from numerous bugs that do not observe international boundaries.

You may have been infected by a virus either just before or during your holiday, but you’ll need to prove the infection was all down to the hotel.

Even then you’ll have to show that the tour operator was aware there was an outbreak of illness, and warned you about the possibility of infection. It would also be helpful if you complained to the tour operator’s representative during your stay.

The purchase of additional food and drink away from the hotel which was not part of the holiday package will obviously compound your difficulty in proving the hotel was the source of food contamination.

You need to take further legal advice before you proceed with your legal action.

Q I’ve seen an advertisement for a gadget that you can fit to your boiler that claims to reduce gas consumption by more than 30 per cent. Do you know anything about how the device works and does it make the savings claimed for it?

KB (internet)

A The only device I know of that matches your description is the g-Save boiler economiser, which costs around £100.

Call me cynical, but if this small box of tricks really does all that is claimed for it, why haven’t the boiler manufacturers incorporated it as standard in their products? I am not aware of any independent objective evidence in support of the gas saving claim.

Heating experts tell me the device appears to work by electronically turning down the thermostat by a few degrees. This will make your house colder, which is of course something you can do manually yourself at a cost of precisely nothing.

Q I’ve just signed a contract for home improvements. I’ve now decided I can’t afford them so I want to cancel it. Will there be any comeback?

JM (internet)

A Very probably. Most contracts become legally binding on signing them and you can’t get out of jail simply by changing your mind. You could be required to compensate the contractor for loss of profit. Look at the small print in the contract to find out where you stand.

Only credit agreements, timeshare contracts, contracts made in your own home or where there has been no face to face contact have a statutory cooling-off period and can be cancelled after signing up or indicating acceptance.