The current social distancing restrictions have left numerous couples with no other option but to postpone or cancel their wedding. In these extraordinary circumstances, where it is neither the couple’s nor the suppliers’ fault that the wedding services could not be provided on the agreed date, both parties are encouraged to discuss suitable alternative arrangements.
A fair and reasonable solution would be an agreement to postpone the booked service to a later date. The cancellation of the booked service must only be opted for when there is no other choice or solution.
As the couple would have booked several services for their wedding, it is advisable that they first come to an agreement on an alternative date with their largest suppliers, such as the wedding venue and caterers. Once possible alternative dates are agreed upon with these suppliers, then the couple should contact the other service providers and try to reschedule their services accordingly.
If it is impossible to postpone all the services to a common alternative date, then in these extraordinary circumstances, couples have no other option but to cancel the unavailable services and request a refund of the deposit paid.
When a sales contract is not performed, consumer legislation provides consumers with the right to claim a refund of the money paid. If, however, a part of the service has already been provided, or the service provider has incurred costs in relation to the booking, then these costs may be deducted from the refund due to the consumers.
Another problem some couples are currently facing is an increase in price for the wedding services
Prior to making a request for a refund, couples are advised to check the terms and conditions of their sales contract to see if there are any clauses in relation to the cancellation of the service in extraordinary circumstances. Should the contract stipulate that the deposit will be lost in such situations, if the amount of deposit is quite significant when compared to the costs that may have been incurred by the service provider in relation to the booking, the couple may dispute the fairness of such clause. If no agreement is reached between the couple and the service providers, a complaint may be filed with the Office for Consumer Affairs.
Another problem some couples are currently facing is an increase in price for the wedding services. Suppliers are informing couples that since the wedding will take place in 2021, then next year’s rates apply and couples have to pay the difference in price. Unless such a provision is clearly stipulated in the contract’s terms and conditions, and such provision has been accepted by the couple upon signing the sales agreement, the original agreed price should be adhered to.
If the seller unilaterally changes the agreed price, then the seller would be considered as breaching the sales contract. This may lead to the termination of the sales agreement. In such circumstances, if the couple does not want to pay the difference in price, they may opt to cancel the booked service and request a refund of the deposit paid.
While couples and service providers are encouraged to come to a fair and equitable agreement, in case of a dispute, consumers may seek the assistance of the Office for Consumer Affairs.
If no agreement is reached through the Office’s conciliation process, the couple will then have the opportunity to take their case to the Consumer Claims Tribunal. The amount of compensation that can be awarded by this tribunal is limited to €3,500.
If the couple’s claim exceeds this amount, then the couple will need to take their case to the civil courts.
Odette Vella is Director, Information and Research Directorate
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