Many people have had their plans for 2020 severely disrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions on everyday activities that it has entailed. For some of those hoping to get married this year, the crisis has forced them to put their plans on hold or amend them significantly.
Because of the continuing questions and concerns surrounding weddings during the COVID-19 emergency, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a guidance statement to help ensure that consumers are treated fairly and businesses understand their responsibilities under the law.
The CMA said it has released the guidance “in direct response to urgent problems being experienced in this industry sector.”
It sets out the circumstances under which consumers should expect a refund from weddings companies, as well as information on insurance and contract terms.
The CMA has also published an open letter to wedding providers, and says it is continuing to investigate suspected breaches of consumer protection law.
According to the letter, “the CMA appreciates that we are in unprecedented times resulting in significant challenges for both businesses and consumers. We understand that many wedding businesses and consumers have agreed voluntary arrangements to handle the effects on their contracts which work well for both parties.”
However, it adds, the CMA has “received reports alleging some unfair practices by a minority of businesses, including some in the weddings sector, mainly relating to the cancellation of contracts and services in the context of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.”
One company with which the CMA has reached an agreement over customer refunds is Bijou Weddings Group. After ‘engaging constructively’ with the CMA on the issue, Bijou has agreed to:
- offer affected customers fairer partial refunds that more accurately reflect the services received up until the date of cancellation;
- clearly communicate to every affected customer who has not re-scheduled their wedding the refund process that has been agreed.
The CMA has seen a spike in enquiries and complaints relating to wedding refunds and cancellations since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and the organisation has been conducting a special investigation into the sector since April.