An exposé of Expedia by BBC’s Watchdog last night has reminded customers of the benefits of booking through traditional operators and agents.

The consumer investigation programme claimed it had received dozens of complaints from Expedia customers who claimed bookings failed to materialise and were even cancelled by the online agency.

Customers featured in the programme said despite taking their money, Expedia has failed to reimburse them. Compensation has not been forthcoming, even up to five months later.

Watchdog travel expert Alison Rice warned that while viewers may find a better price online, they are foregoing many of the safeguards offered when booking through the trade.

She said: “It is a growing problem – traditionally we’re so used to buying package holidays from tour operators direct or through a travel agent.

“In the good old days they had a duty of care should something go wrong with any aspect of the holiday. Now when we’re putting together our own packages using different websites, it is a case of ‘buyer beware’.”

Expedia refused to comment to Travel Weekly but in a reply to Watchdog it claimed it has offered apologies, refunds and compensated clients who were forced to book replacement flights or hotels when its own bookings fell through.

Expedia added that 99.9% of its customers have no problems and that bookings are confirmed with airlines and hotels when the customer receives confirmation. It also blamed part of the problem on hotels and airlines overbooking to avoid no-shows.