Now, something I can measure them on is their payment terms. They took all the money upfront and returned it with a 2.5% admin charge. The 2.5% seems like a stupid amount to charge as it's really little money and it's charging people for a service they did not receive.
Sorry it didn't work out and I can fully understand your unhappiness and the desire to tell others. So - are the comments "fair"?
I can't comment on whether the length of the trip and the type of boat they operate makes cancellations more likely than on a trip ex Harris - it certainly seems probable and a reasonable comment to make in a review. Though I am not sure that the first 2 paras actually add anything - just make it clear that you are rating the company NOT St Kilda! .
The Skye Company terms and conditions for payment and cancellation are certainly less "good" for intending passengers than those operated by the company operating out of Harris. The Ts + Cs you all "signed up" for clearly give them the right to charge the 2.5% if you decide not to accept an "offered" alternative date for the trip. ("In the event of the weather being unsuitable in the interests of comfort and safety, or the minimum number of bookings not being reached, the trip will be cancelled. In such events, passengers will be informed with as much notice as possible and where possible will be offered an alternative date. If not suitable for the passenger, there will be a refund of the price paid, subject to deduction of a 2.5% admin charge.
"). This condition is of course one which virtually always enables them to charge the 2.5% - since, if they offer a date a month away, then almost no one is going to be able to take it!!
The Harris company only pre-charges a deposit of £75 out of £205 (with the rest being paid on the day) - clearly a "better" option for customers and the Harris company will fully refund if the trip can't run ("In the event of a trip being cancelled due to weather conditions or other factors beyond our reasonable control, deposits are refunded in full within 10 business days
."). It is perfectly fair to point out the poorer Ts + Cs and payment methods of the Skye company v the Harris company - especially given the experience you have had regarding the high frequency of cancellations across the period before and during your booking. Everyone booking should be prepared to lose their 2.5%!!!
I can't comment on how the group got itself in a position whereby the decision NOT to go on the reserve trip could be considered a "Cancellation" nor how such a trip could be charged the same as a full trip to St Kilda. Was a "contract" entered into? Possibly not - but, of course it isn't easy to argue this in law with them!!! It seems reasonable to express your dissatisfaction at the situation and to "warn" others of the situation they might get themselves into!!