Special report by Simon Sansome
A few weeks ago staying at Hammersmith Premier Inn I was unable to fully access their accessible room.
I booked the room online and, being a wheelchair user I would expect a walk in shower in an accessible room. This was clearly not the case.
Working on this issue with Lady Tanni Grey Thompson (Paralympian), we approached Premier Inn hotels to see if they would meet with us to resolve the situation as it was clear their accessible rooms were not accessible.
Premier Inn refused to meet with us until the issue was resolved with Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority.
The Advertising Standards Authority have now concluded their investigation and have reported that Premier Inn are in breach of advertising rules regarding accessible accommodation.
The advertising standards authority said in an email: “Having gone through the booking process myself on Premier Inn’s website, I can see that when selecting an accessible room, customers are taken through their selection of hotel, price and meals, before being asked to input personal information and payment details.
On the third page of that process, entitled “Choose your meals”, the website states “You have selected an accessible room. To ensure that we can meet your requirements, we recommend that you telephone the hotel directly to check the suitability of accessible rooms at the hotel”. However, that page focuses on the selection of meals with prominent images and messages of the offers they have available, and customers are able to select “Continue” without having to scroll down the page to the information that recommends calling the hotel to check suitability.
My initial view is that the website is likely to be in breach of the Advertising Code by failing to make clear at the start of the booking process that those selecting an accessible room will need to contact the hotel directly to check that there is a room available that will meet their needs. I have therefore written to Premier Inn today to request that they make changes to the website by making that information clearer.”
The Advertising Standards Authority also added that if Premier Inn do not change the way accessible rooms are booked then they will have to consider further action.
It is a shame it had to go this far as I contacted Premier Inn on numerous occasions explaining the difficulty in booking an accessible room. Tanni Grey Thompson has been working with Whitbread to try to improve accessibility for disabled customers but was given the cold shoulder by the hotel chain.
Now after months of investigation Premier Inn have been found in breach of the advertising standards. I hope that they will make immediate changes to their booking system, but this investigation also has implications for other organisations like Travelodge, Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inns, Air B&B as they will now have to make similar changes, which will give more independence to disabled customers.