Cancellations and Postponements of Wedding Services
Due to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease, many couples have already had to postpone or cancel their 2020 weddings. With uncertainty over when we will see a return to larger weddings, couples, venues and suppliers have been seeking guidance on the law regarding cancellations and postponements.
The CMA (Competition & Markets Authority) announced on 30th April that they would be issuing guidance on refunds and cancellations for the wedding sector. That report has now been published, and will help couples and businesses understand their rights and reach a solution.
If you decided to postpone
Regardless of when your wedding is, you can come to a voluntary agreement with your venue and suppliers as an alternative to cancellation. In most cases, couples and venues agreed to postpone the date, in which case you don’t need to read any further. Postponing is by far the most helpful approach couples can take, minimising their own financial risk and helping the wider wedding economy.
Weddings before 30th September
The CMA’s view is that, in the case of any weddings which were scheduled to take place between late March 2020 and late September 2020, the parties were entitled to believe that these weddings would have broken lockdown and therefore couldn’t have gone ahead. This means that those contracts were ‘frustrated’, and therefore that couples are eligible for a full refund in most cases if they have not received the product or service that they booked. The venue and suppliers may be able to deduct certain costs from the refund, but only those costs specifically relating to that particular wedding.
Weddings after 30th September
Those weddings after 30th September that are significantly impacted by the restrictions would also be considered to be “frustrated” contracts. This would be the case if, for example, a key part of the wedding such as the evening reception could not go ahead or you are only allowed much lower numbers.
If you choose to go ahead, the CMA suggest that, to avoid the risk of a breach of contract for the service not being supplied as contracted, businesses should offer a refund of the part of the service not supplied. This can be agreed between the parties.
Sharing the losses
The CMA acknowledge that businesses and consumers are equally unlucky in being impacted by Covid-19 and as such neither should carry all the costs that result in the contract being frustrated. They consider it would be fair to equally share the costs incurred.
If you choose to cancel
If your wedding has not been significantly impacted, or if the date is too far away to be sure if it will be, you still have the choice to cancel. However, you will not automatically be entitled to a full refund, less costs, in the way you will be if the contract is frustrated. The business accepted your booking in good faith and should understandably be protected in many cases.
The businesses normal terms and conditions would apply, as long as those terms are considered fair and reasonable.
The CMA do not consider it to be fair and reasonable to charge in full for a service that has not been supplied, not to charge for non-refundable deposits where the reason for the amount charged can’t be justified. The business would be expected to take into consideration their actual losses and also the savings the business will have in not fulfilling the contract.
How can I avoid any issues?
The CMA’s guidance should help to resolve a lot of the clashes between couples and businesses. Both parties will now have a clearer picture of what’s required, meaning that, hopefully, any disputes can be sorted quickly and amicably.
For their part, couples can communicate with their venues and suppliers in order to make the process of changing their wedding date easier. If those businesses are kept in the loop, they can work together with you to identify a date which works for them and it can avoid unnecessary cancellations.
If the contract has been frustrated the right to a refund exists whether you have formally requested it or not. Bear in mind that the business may not be in the best position to refund you in full right away, so please try to be understanding with them as they are all establishing the right way to react to changing rules. Ultimately, until the CMA’s guidance is scrutinised by a court case, many venues and businesses will be reluctant to issue any refunds at this early stage.
If you can agree a postponement rather then cancelling your plans, you are far less likely to lose money.
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