Co-funded by
the European Union
European Consumer Centre (ECC) Italy Bolzano office

Hotel booking in Italy

In this period many people spend their holiday in Italy. But it is also a typical influenza period and it can therefore happen that consumers have to cancel their reservation of a hotel room. But not being able to leave for the holiday does not automatically mean not having to pay the hotel…

One of the questions most frequently asked by consumers regarding travel and vacation is definitely the following: "I booked a hotel but I cannot leave. Now the landlord is asking me to pay the full amount. But are they entitled to?". Usually consumers do not like the answer given by advisors of the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Italy: as a rule a hotel reservation cannot be cancelled free of charge.

Booking a hotel room can be done in different ways: by phone or e-mail - the Italian law does not prescribe a particular form. What is important to know is that the booking coincides with the time of conclusion of the contract: hence the consequence that the cancellation of the booking determines the obligation of the consumer to compensate the landlord for that loss, or for the failure to take advantage of the stay. With the conclusion of the contract, the consumer is only obliged to pay the price, not to actually use the room.

But how much is the consumer obliged to pay in case of cancellation of booking? First and foremost it depends on what is foreseen in the booking conditions. Some hotels use percentages compared to the total price, which increase the closer you get to the date of the stay (as it is for package holidays). Then it may happen that consumers are asked to pay 100% of the price if the cancellation is made at the last minute.

If a deposit has been paid (so called caparra confirmatoria), in addition to restrain the advance payment, the hotelier may require payment of the entire amount of the booked stay or greater damages (for example, if no longer able to give the room to others or if he had rejected other bookings, to preserve that of the consumer). In calculating the penalty of withdrawal the costs of the ancillary services, such as breakfast or other meals must in any case be reduced from the price.

However in some cases the consumer has not to pay the full amount of the stay. This happens if the landlord has "sold" the booked room in the period. But in practice it is very difficult to prove that the landlord was able to rent the room to someone else. Another possibility of free of charge cancellation is offered by some booking platforms (and recently also by some hotels) providing bookings which can be cancelled free of charge for example until one day before arrival, for a slight surcharge compared to the “normal” price.

And what to do in cases of influenza? For these occasions it is the consumer who has and is able to void withdrawal penalties by taking out a travel cancellation insurance. Also many hotels offer the opportunity to take out one of these policies when booking.

Finally it should be noted that the right of free withdrawal provided in general for online purchases in Italy is excluded by law for all holiday bookings and leisure time services in general.