blank
Connect with us

Lifestyle

Wedded to the venue – Consumer organisation warns couples are still being left out of pocket by venues keeping their cash

Published

on

assorted flowers on table

Consumer organisation, Which? is calling for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to be given greater powers to deal with businesses that break consumer law – after hearing from several couples still struggling to get refunds for weddings cancelled due to the pandemic.

A year after the consumer champion first raised the alarm that venues were leaving couples out of pocket, Which? has found that some hotels, barns and country houses are still not treating couples fairly.

According to the CMA, there were 2,400 cancellation and refund complaints about weddings in the year to March 2021 – with an average of £6,500 at stake.

The CMA has been clear that couples should in principle be refunded for weddings that are prevented by lockdown laws from going ahead on the agreed date. It issued guidance for businesses on contract cancellations and refunds in April 2020 and released updated advice specifically for the wedding industry in September 2020. These statements set out the CMA’s view of what the law requires.

However, this guidance alone is not legally binding and as things stand, only a court can decide how the law applies in each case. Some couples have struggled to get their venues to take notice of it. With coronavirus restrictions and laws changing so rapidly, it can also be confusing for couples to navigate if and when they are entitled to a refund.

man in black suit jacket holding woman in white wedding dress
Couples who have cancelled wedding plans die to the pandemic are struggling to get refunds according to consumer organisation Which? (Image: cottonbro / Pexels.com)

Which? has spoken to six couples struggling to get a refund from their venues. One couple has since come to an agreement, but five are still waiting on refunds from their venue for weddings cancelled due to Covid and stand to lose more than £26,000 combined.

One couple Which? spoke to was due to get married in May 2020. They planned to invite 100 day guests and 140 guests in the evening.

Advertisement

In March 2020, when lockdown restrictions were on the cards, the venue postponed the wedding to March 2021 and gave the couple a new contract for the rescheduled date.

When it got to September 2020, the government announced that a 15-person limit on weddings would likely be in place until March 2021. The couple’s wedding fell a few days outside of the six month restrictions but they saw the CMA’s guidance and believed they would be entitled to a refund as their wedding looked unlikely to go ahead as planned.

Advertisement

Management asked them to postpone rather than cancel. The venue has since argued that as it was not confirmed that the September guest limit would still be in force by their wedding date in March, the wedding was cancelled by the couple and therefore, they were not entitled to a refund.

Eventually the venue offered them a settlement of £4,011 which they then increased to £5,000 in December. But this meant more than £5,000 of their money would be unrecovered.

Without trying to test the law – including the fairness of the terms of their wedding venue contract –  through the courts, the couple cannot establish their final rights to some or all of their money back.

Advertisement

The couple has since married at another venue in November 2020 and put in a claim with their wedding insurer for the rest of the money.

dining hall interior
Wedding venues are asking couples to postpone rather than offering refunds (Image: Jeremy Wong / Pexels.com)

Another couple Which? spoke to booked their wedding for 11 July 2020 with 120 guests. The venue cancelled in May and said they would offer another suitable date.

The venue did not offer a like-for-like Saturday wedding date and after looking at the CMA guidance, the couple decided to ask for a full refund. This was refused by the venue and all of their suppliers, aside from the caterers.

At this point, the couple decided to stop trying as they felt they were fighting a losing battle and were left to foot the bill for a £700 non-refundable booking fee.

The venue claims it has already undertaken work to justify keeping the money. But when the couple asked for an itemised breakdown of these costs the venue did not supply one.

Advertisement

Advertisement

This is an industry-wide issue which continues to affect couples whose weddings have been impacted by the pandemic, so Which? believes the CMA must be given the right tools to swiftly and efficiently prosecute companies who have clearly broken consumer law.

The consumer champion is calling for the CMA to have stronger enforcement powers. This would include stronger powers to conduct investigations and impose appropriate fines on companies that breach the law, whether in the weddings industry or in other sectors.

Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, said: “It is disappointing that some wedding venues are still ignoring guidance from the regulator and charging couples for circumstances completely beyond their control. This is especially frustrating for couples when they rearranged their wedding date early on in the pandemic at the request of the venue.

“The current system allows rogue businesses to slip through the net and does not punish those harming consumers. The Competition and Markets Authority must be given stronger powers to hold businesses accountable and fine those that break the law.”

(Lead image: Emma Bauso / Pexels.com)

Advertisement

Advertisement
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2022 Swansea Bay News