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.
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?