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Wedding venues: What are couples’ consumer rights?

Lubna Shuja, vice-president of the Law Society of England and Wales.

By: Lubna Shuja

‘Customers must be allowed to seek a refund or re-schedule their celebration’

COUPLES across the UK, whose weddings were postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19, are now planning ceremonies as pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

In March 2020, weddings in England were banned due to the lockdown. Small ceremonies were allowed from June 2020 with no more than 30 guests. That cap on numbers was lifted on June 21 this year. However, some couples are still battling with venues to get a full or partial refund for weddings cancelled in 2020.

What consumer rights do couples have? Wedding venues and other suppliers often contract with couples direct and are subject to the provisions and implied terms in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If a venue was forced to close by the UK government during lockdown, couples had the right to re-schedule their wedding or request a full or partial refund.

My venue refused to pay me a refund for my cancelled wedding in 2020, what are my rights?

Which? found couples were struggling to obtain refunds or postponement dates because of Covid-19 measures last year. In June, Which? reported some hotels, barns and country houses have not been treating couples fairly.

Guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) states consumers should be offered a full refund if a wedding is cancelled due to a lockdown. However, only a court can decide how the law applies in each case.

In most cases, the CMA expects businesses to refund customers when the business cancelled the contract, as well as refund them any nonrefundable deposits and waive any admin fees for processing refunds.

If you have still not received a refund from a venue for a cancelled wedding, you can complain to the CMA here1. In the year to March 2021, the regulator received 2,400 complaints about wedding venues, with an average of £6,500 at stake.

The wedding sector is being investigated by the CMA as part of its examination of businesses that have reportedly failed to respect refund rights during the pandemic.

My wedding venue has gone bust; what do I do now? You need to register your refund claim with the administrator. However, there is no guarantee you will get your entire venue fee back. If you have wedding insurance, you may be able to claim on it if your policy covers this.

Is it fair for my venue to charge me the same price for a smaller wedding? No, it is unfair for a venue to charge the same price for a wedding with fewer guests in attendance, as it would represent a windfall for the supplier to the detriment of the consumer.

If you think you need to take legal action against a venue or a supplier, you can use the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor2 service.

1. Gov.uk – Report a business behaving unfairly during the coronavirus outbreak (coronavirus-businesscomplaint.service.gov.uk)

2. Find a Solicitor – The Law Society: https://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/?Pro=True

Lubna Shuja is the vice-president of the Law Society of England and Wales. She will become the first Asian president in October 2022 and only the seventh female president since the Law Society was set up in 1825.

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