IHG Best Price Guarantee – Policy Change?

One of my favourite programs is the IHG Best Price Guarantee (BPG). This program will, subject to a number of terms, provide you with a free night at any IHG hotel if you can find a rate from a competitor that is lower and matches or beats the terms of the booked rate on IHG’s website. I have received many dozens of free nights with this program, from $1000/night rooms at Intercontinental hotels, and cheapo Holiday Inn hotels.

Source: Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG.com)

Source: Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG.com)

Typically, I only book refundable rates on IHG, which I am pretty competent at beating with a competitor. So long as the competitor’s rate was better, was charged in the same currency as the IHG booking, and had an equivalent or better cancellation policy, it was approved. However, over the past couple days, I’ve submitted 5 different BPGs under different names and email addresses (for family and whatnot). I was looking at two different hotels. Both hotel competitor sites had better flexibility than IHG, same currency, etc. Both hotels should have been “easy” BPGs.

Every single BPG application was denied. The reason?

A lower room rate was found offered on the IHG website for the same room type booked based on the details found for the reservation on your claim.  The Terms and Conditions require that the claim be for “a valid room booking with the lowest available price (room rate)” on the IHG website.  The lower room rate was found for the same reservation details including, but not limited to: room type, check-in date, number of guests, number of nights.

They then stated that I should have booked the lowest price for the room type, which would have been the non-refundable rate. This is ridiculous! There’s clear ambiguity in the terms (if anybody knows about contract law, you’d know that where there’s ambiguity in contract, it shall be read in favour of the weaker party). Further, on my booking confirmation, it stated “The power of the Book With Us Advantage is in your confirmed reservation”, which directs me to the BPG policy. Finally, I have submitted dozens of valid requests on refundable bookings, and so have hundreds of others. And this wasn’t just a one-off. I had a similar message from a number of different agents, using different hotels and booking names/email. All denied for the same reason.

On one booking, I sent a reply appealing the decision. This is the response I received:

Per the program Terms and Conditions, to be eligible for a Valid Claim a guest must: “Complete a valid room booking with the lowest available price (room rate) on any IHG website for any IHG branded hotel using the ‘Best Available Rate Search.’”  It has come to our attention that some previous claims were deemed “valid” contrary to the intent of this statement.  All previously awarded claims will remain “valid” and will be honored in full by IHG and our hotels.  However, we will continue to uphold this portion of the Terms and Conditions moving forward

So it looks like the BPG department has instituted a policy change (which is not properly reflected in the Terms and Conditions) that bookings have to be made on the lowest available rate on the specific room, which is invariably a non-refundable reservation. If true, this means that beating a refundable reservation will almost always elicit a BPG denial. I believe this is not only against the wording of the terms, but also the intent AND spirit of the policy. By placing the notation that my refundable booking is covered by the “Book With Us Advantage”, this seems like deceptive advertising. Normally I’m defensive of the IHG BPG policy when people complain about it, as most people don’t follow the terms perfectly, which would create a valid denial. However, these consistent denials, for the same [stupid and unreasonable] reason, are obscene. Unfortunately, as you can no longer speak with someone at the BPG department over the telephone, I believe that any appeal would be in vain.

Have you received the same denial for an IHG BPG? What do you think of this policy change?

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Comments

  1. This is not a policy change. From the beginning, this was the policy, although, as noted, same non-complying claims were approved.

  2. I have received at least 2 BRG denials which are ridiculous. So they want you to book a non-refundable fare from them and them show them that you can find the same non-refundable rate somewhere else. BUT, if they dont approve it, you’re stuck with the higher non-refundable rate cause you cant cancel it!!!

  3. I’ve received a denial only because a refundable Travelzoo rate which included a $50 spa credit and $50 restaurant credit, where the hotel’s own (also refundable rate) did not. The claim was denied because the packages were not equal. Well of course, they were not equal the Travelzoo rate was both lower and included extras that the standard did not! Another lame excuse to deny.

  4. Awww so basically, all we can do now is by booking the lowest, so non-refundable ? If so, big risk to be stuck with more expensive fee :-/ useless

  5. Yes, definitely a policy change. From a recent denied claim: “The guest must book the lowest available rate on our website, regardless of the cancellation policy. As long as it is the lowest rate available on the IHG website at the time of verification.”

  6. I found a couple of sites that offer a lower rate than IHG’s offical site, but the room is a “standard room” where the specifics (ie: types of bed etc…) will be determined at check-in. IHG also offers the standard room type but at a higher price. Would this type of room fall under BPG?

  7. This is not new. You always have to book the lowest available rate…

    What is new however..

    1) I made a reservation for 1 night for 2 rooms; they validated the claim, but for 1 room only. Despite the terms and conditions not saying that there is a limitation on the number of rooms per the same night (it only says the first night is free, nothing about the number of rooms)

    2) What is new… and pathetic is that once they validate the claim, you cannot submit another one in the 14 day period, EVEN if the reservation for which the claim was validated has been cancelled. so say your plans changed…and you make a new booking, they will deny your claim if it’s within 14 days. in the past the 14 day rule never worked like that… i.e.yes, they denied if you had an active booking for which there is a successful best price guarantee. But you could always submit another claim for a BPG within a 14 day period, if your booking was cancelled. They do not allow this anymore.

  8. Same issue here with this. they leave you holding the bag. Not cool.

    I’ve escalated it to they’re Senior Account Managers but they did nothing as well. I think this experience has completely turned me off the IHG brand.

  9. I’ve also run into this problem, but on a slightly different front. In the past I had submitted approved claims on reservations that were for the room + breakfast. In my mind, packages are a completely different room type, but IHG gave me the same line that “you must book the lowest possible rate”… Even though I did book the lowest rate (w/ breakfast) thru IHG and still found a better deal elsewhere. Of course all the other details of the reservations were the same (# of people, dates, terms of cancellation etc.) Section 8 of the terms and conditions seems to directly contradict what they’re telling me. I don’t understand why they don’t tighten up the terms and conditions that are published if they’d like to proceed with denying claims on very ambiguous grounds.

  10. Hi,

    I have one question, can I book just one night and if found a lower rate get that night for free (which would be the complete stay for free)?

    Thank you Boarding Area!

    • Yes, if you are only staying for one night your entire (i.e one-night) stay is free. There is no minimum stay required to get a free night. There are some other restrictions you should be aware of (see terms and conditions).

  11. Just got denied an IHG BRG claim. Their terms and conditions haven’t changed, they are dishonest and inconsistent. Why not change the terms and conditions, IHG? My refundable night was denied because I didn’t pick the IHG non-refundable rate EVEN THOUGH the IHG BRG staffperson admitted that IHG’s non-refundable rate was still higher than the competitor’s website’s non-refundable AND refundable rate. When I asked if I would be approved if I reserved the IHG non-refundable rate, they were non-committal and frankly I’m not willing to risk it because they can and likely will find a myriad of other made up reasons to deny the claim. Their BRG claim is totally fraudulent. Really a class-action lawsuit in the making. Any attorneys out there? On another site a customer in the UK took IHG to small claims court and IHG quickly settled.

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