COVID-19 Cancelled or deferred weddings, receptions, & other events

I am having an issue getting a refund from our wedding venue. We were getting married the 16th May 2020 and had a contract signed for that date for a wedding package of 60 people. Due to the new restrictions the venue has been closed and is now unable to provide the service we signed for but has refused to refund our money which is over $8000. The have offered to reschedule but with limited restrictions of when. Their terms and conditions say its non refundable but the contract was also for the 16th of May 2020 for 60 people so if they cannot provide the service and I am not choosing to cancel, am I entitled to a refund?

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Welcome to the .community @jessicastark,

Choice published guidance for cancelled events (eg concerts and similar), not quite your predicament. It may or may not be instructive.

This page from the ACCC also misses your problem but again might be useful.

The trend for events is that the ACCC ‘expect’ you should receive a refund for those specifically addressed. I suggest you contact them as well as your state fair trading organisation, but…

Unfortunately, the most salient text is “Where the cancellation is because of a government ban, the consumer is unlikely to be entitled to a refund under the Australian Consumer Law and their rights are determined by the terms and conditions of the agreement.”

Considering your chosen venue is prioritising their money rather than doing the right thing by their now captive customer under the circumstances, it might be appropriate for you to name them so others can be aware of their business ethics under unusual circumstances.

Perhaps a Choice staff or another member can add something relevant to your particular circumstance?

Please let us know how you go.

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Thanks, I have contacted both the ACCC and submitted a complaint with Fair Trading. Whilst I understand the terms & conditions say no refund the contract was also signed for a wedding package for the 16th of may 2020, so if they are unable to provide that service how can the cancellation policy apply. My fingers are crossed!

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If you paid by credit card, ask the financial institution to reverse the transaction (refund) as the service will not be delivered.

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My wedding band is trying to charge us a rescheduling fee due to my wedding having to be moved. I didn’t ask for a refund of my deposit but I wasn’t expecting to pay more due to a forced government cancellation.

Can they do this?

To clarify, I am by no means an expert on such matters. (I suspect you will have a plethora of more factual advice in the near future) I would agree strongly that you should not pay a rescheduling fee. For the same reasons, a refund of the deposit may even be in order. If the cancellation was not made by yourself, the band would have had to cancel anyway for the same reasons. Furthermore, the implication is that you could charge the band a rescheduling fee for the same reasoning they wish to charge yourself. Hopefully that was not totally nonsensical and will provide some moral support in the interim. (until the Cavalry arrives)

Welcome to the .community @Abbyy,

That is indeed over the top under the circumstances. I moved your post to this thread because there are all sorts of issues coming up regarding weddings under current restrictions.

That sounds more than reasonable.

Always check your contractual T&C be they hardcopy or on a website to see if they cover current events; if so it makes it easier; if they do not there are a few guidelines in the links and replies above that should be helpful.

If they are hard edged and it cannot be amicably resolved it would be worth letting others know the band’s name so everyone understands their business ethics when the unexpected happens.

Good luck getting it sorted, and please let us know how it goes.

Another approach might be to insist that they turn up and play as agreed, and if they don’t/can’t then they need to refund your money.

The venue will no doubt be close, so they won’t be able to get in to play therefore they will need to refund.

Seriously now; did you use a wedding planner? If so, talk to them naming the band, and ask if they can help. Also if you paid by credit card, ask the financial institution to reverse the transaction (refund) as the service will not be delivered.

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I thought about suggesting that, but if they did turn up and played even at the front gate, they might be entitled to keep their entire fee.

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I expect that it will be up to the business to determine how they approach the current predicament that everyone finds oneself in.

As I outlined here, for our own business which has considerable cancellation booking losses (I try not to think about it), we have taken an approach where it is no-one’s fault the situation we are in and as a result, we shouldn’t be penalising a customer for something outside their control. It is worth noting that our cancellation policy would allow us to charge the customer for their cancellation…we have temporarily amended our policy to ensure that we have happy customers (and hopefully will stay with us in the future when things return to normal).

This is the wording we have sent to our customers:

We would like to let you know that we have made a temporary adjustment to our cancellation policy due to COVID-19. If for some reason you are unable to travel due to restriction imposed by government to control COVID-19, please let us know immediately on *** and we will cancel the booking with no penalty.

I expect that other businesses will treat their customers differently and will adopt their cancellation T&Cs strictly as written. These business will be judged by their customers who can’t fulfil their obligations due to matters outside their control (government bans or what is called a force majeure event)…and future customers will also judge them on how compassionate they are in the circumstance that prevail.

An avenue worth exploring it to let the business know that you will write a factual online comment about the experiences with the business and how you beleive that you have been treated unfairly when the cancellation is outside your control and the business can’t legally deliver the required services due to circumstances outside their and the customers control (when other business have taken the initiative to bend their cancellation policies - airlines are another example). This may prompt the business to reconsider its cancellation policy.

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Hi. My daughter was due to get married on the 4th of April with a venue booked for over 80 guests. Obviously the event has been cancelled by the government. From what I have read consumer Law does not apply and you should rely on the terms of the contract. The contract states:
Cancellation of booking…
By the client

By the (supplier)
a) …
b) (the supplier) will refund all deposits paid if (the supplier) cancels the confirmed booking and if (the supplier) determines in its sole discretion that the cancellation has not occurred through any fault, act or omission of the client.

The supplier is refusing to refund any money and only wants to postpone with a new contract to be entered into with very onerous terms including substituting venues from a Harbour side location to a far western Sydney suburb.

What is your opinion on this. My daughter is absolutely distraught at this outcome for a wedding only days away.

Thanks
Steve

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Welcome to the .community @Swoods,

Unfortunately you are not alone; it may be instructive to read this topic from the beginning as many of the posts relate to cancelled weddings.

To answer in context of what has previously been posted one of the first things to do is look at all facets of the T&C, including force majeure events or acts of God clauses, if any are included.

Rather than repost the links, if you scan back a few posts you will find links to Choice’s guidance as well as from the ACCC. I hope it helps.

Considering the limits on wedding attendance I empathise that the day will not be what was planned, and a venue playing hardball adds to the stress.

Please let us know if you are able to work something out and how, as it might help others with a similar problem. If it reaches an impasse it could be instructive to know the venue so others will be aware of their business practices.

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Hi. Thanks for your response. I have read the previous thread with interest.

I will copy in the entire cancellation terms so you get a better picture of the contract.


3. CANCELLATION OF BOOKING AFTER RECEIPT OF SIGNED AGREEMENT AND DEPOSITS

By the client

All cancellations by the Client must be communicated and acknowledged in writing by the authorised signatories of the Booking Agreement of the Client (or if the Client is a company, by one of the Client’s directors), and (The Supplier).

In the Event of a cancellation of a confirmed booking by the Client, the Client shall pay to (The Supplier) cancellation fees calculated as set out below:

i. Cancellation received after the date of confirmation and no less than one hundred and eighty-one (181) days prior to the date of the Event: All deposits paid will not be refunded. No additional cancellation fee will be incurred.

ii. For notice of cancellation outside of 365 days to the date of the function: A cancellation fee of 50% of the initial deposit will be incurred, provided that we have received the notice of cancellation in writing.

iii. For notice of cancellation within 365 days to the date of the function: A cancellation fee will apply and all deposits and/or payments made according to our payment schedule are non-refundable.

iv. Cancellation received between one hundred and eighty (180) days and ninety-one (91) days prior to the date of the Event: All deposits paid will not be refunded. In addition, the Client shall pay a cancellation fee equivalent to the difference between fifty percent (50%) of the contracted Minimum Revenue Spend and the sum of all deposits paid by the Client (if the sum of all deposits is less than fifty per cent (50%) of the Minimum Revenue Spend).

v. Cancellation received between ninety (90) days and thirty-one (31) days prior to the date of the Event: All deposits paid will not be refunded. In addition, the Client shall pay a cancellation fee equivalent to the difference between seventy percent (70%) of the Minimum Revenue Spend and the sum of all deposits paid by the Client as at the date of cancellation (if the sum of all deposits is less than seventy per cent (70%) of the Minimum Revenue Spend).

vi. Cancellation received between thirty (30) days and the date of the Event: All deposits paid will not be refunded. In addition, the Client shall pay a cancellation fee equivalent to the difference between one hundred percent (100%) of the Minimum Revenue Spend and the sum of all deposits paid by the Client as at the date of cancellation (if the sum of all deposits is less than one hundred per cent (100%) of the Minimum Revenue Spend).

Postponing the event - (The Supplier) may in its absolute discretion consider a postponement request and the re-allocation of deposit monies subject to management approval which approval may be given or withheld by management in their sole discretion. If a postponement request is accepted by (The Supplier), the above cancellation fees are calculated from the original Confirmation Date. Postponement requests are limited to once per agreement, if the request is accepted by (The Supplier).

by (The Supplier)

  • (The Supplier) may cancel a confirmed booking in the event of a force majeure, redevelopment or when (The Supplier) is deemed by (The Supplier) in its sole discretion to be unsafe or unsuitable for the confirmed booking to materialise. In this case, (The Supplier) is not liable for any loss, damage, cost or expense suffered or incurred by the client and/or any third party.
  • (The Supplier) will refund all deposits paid if (The Supplier) cancels the confirmed booking and if (The Supplier) determines in its sole discretion that the cancellation has not occurred through any fault, act or omission of the client.

There is no other Force Majeure clause.

I think there behavior is reprehensible but what can we do to get them to refund the considerable sum of money?

Thanks
Steve

Thanks for that. First off none of the following is legal advice, only personal opinion and suggestions. I’ll note a venue rep might be reading along; consider how much guidance you want across the open internet for a contentious issue.

Although you wrote

that is not precisely the case. Government made the event illegal to hold with more than 5 attendees so in theory it could be held for 5 at the venue if no venue staff attended, but probably a poor idea since there are minimum spends that could make that Very Expensive for 5.

Regardless of what-ifs, if the venue contacted you in the first instance to cancel, in your position I would write a formal letter of complaint quoting the consumer law referencing back to the contract that includes T&C about force majeure events. They state you will be refunded. Get a return receipt / proof of delivery to the owner, general manager, or equivalent. Set a reasonable date for their reply.

If you cancelled the event it will probably not go well for you regardless of government actions, and if you indicated a postponement not cancellation, you may be able to negotiate an acceptable if not ideal outcome.

The venue will have many cancelled and deferred events all trying to get rescheduled. As a practical matter everyone affected can not be ‘made whole’ with their original arrangements, now impossible, as contracted during this time. If you delayed the wedding for say a year+ out it might go better than if you expected satisfaction in November, to make the point.

If they cancelled but continue to refuse or ignore, you could file a complaint with NSW Fair Trading on the basis of the force majeure clause, and depending on the amount in question and your intentions re the wedding, it might be worthwhile to seek legal advice. Many lawyers will do initial consultations gratis or for a low fee. If you are a Choice member you could get guidance from Choice Help although they can be busy and might not be able to respond timely for you, especially in these times when many will be working from home and so on.

Good luck. We hope to hear the venue decided their reputation matters and you received a refund, or NSW Fair Trading stepped up to help, or you otherwise got a good outcome.

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Hi again and thanks for your response.

I guess we can only hope for a successful postponement.

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Further to @PhilT, I think it could potentially fall into the force majeure event as outlined in the T&Cs.

This website provides an explanation:

"To successfully invoke a force majeure clause performance of the contract must be impossible.". If you can provide that rescheduling of the wedding is impossible as the venue can’t deliver on the contract due to forces outside their control, then you may be in a position to request a refund under the contract.

The question will be what you need to provide to prove that the wedding can’t be rescheduled. It may be difficult to find a valid reason which can stack up. A valid reason could be something like…all family and friends and booked travel for the date (this is no longer relevant as no-one can travel) or a person/family member is unwell and expected to pass way and need to have the wedding before hand while they are still with us…etc. Just because it doesn’t suit may not be sufficient enough.

If the amount of the deposit is significant, it may be worth getting legal advice specific to your case. There are some lawyers which provide first consultation free or also organisations like legal aid if you qualify.