Since the beginning of “lockdown”, weddings have been restricted so that the number of attendees has been significantly reduced. Some weddings have been cancelled, as if they were to go ahead both the couple and venue would be in breach of the “lockdown laws”. This rendered the contract frustrated due to neither party being able to perform the terms of the contract and allowed the couple to receive a refund, or reach an agreement with the venue for another date.
Some couples made the decision to wait and see what would happen come September 2020, which is when the scheduled lockdown laws were due to change. However, in light of the latest restrictions, it seems that the lockdown laws applicable to weddings will be in place for the foreseeable future.
Refunds on weddings cancelled due to lockdown restrictions
Any weddings which were scheduled between March 2020 and when the lockdown laws changed in July 2020, and any weddings set to take place up to late September 2020 and now cannot take place, should be treated as follows:
- Where lockdown laws prevent or prevented a wedding from going ahead on the agreed date, the starting point in law is that the couple should be offered a full refund – applying section 1(2) of the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943. This includes any ‘non-refundable’ deposits or other advance payments.
- However, there are exceptions to refunds being provided. By way of example:
- Any costs already incurred by the wedding venue and/or suppliers. There is no automatic legal right for a business to deduct its costs for a refund, but it may be able to do so where this would be just in all the circumstances. The question of whether it is “just” would be for a Court to decide.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) considers in light of the position that refunds would be given in most circumstances.
They believe it would be reasonable for wedding businesses to retain:
- Money to cover services or products which it has already provided, like bespoke goods made for the consumer, which have an on-going value that the consumer will continue to benefit from even after the contract has ended; and
- A limited contribution to other costs incurred by the business which have a sufficiently direct connection with the contract in question, such as the costs of staff time spent specifically on planning the wedding.
Costs which are unrecoverable by a wedding supplier/venue:
- Costs which produce on-going and re-usable benefits for the wedding business, such as general refurbishment costs for the wedding venue;
- Fixed costs of doing business;
- Duplicate costs (such as costs the business could recover from another source); and
- The costs of administering a refund.
In short, this means that couples, who have been affected by the lockdown laws as their weddings were scheduled to take place between March 2020 and September 2020, can receive refunds on their costs.
How Nelsons can help
If you are in a position where you feel as though you are not getting anywhere with your venue and/or supplier(s), Nelsons are currently offering a fixed fee service, where we will review your contractual documentation (maximum of 15 A4 pages) and draft a letter before action, setting out your proposals. The fixed fee for this service is £500 + VAT.