A couple who lost £13,000 after their wedding could not take place during lockdown say a ruling that they should be refunded does not go far enough.
Adam Gibbs and Sarah Summerskill were due to be married at a venue owned by the Bijou Weddings group.
They complained to the BBC after being told they had to pay an 80% cancellation fee.
The Competition and Markets Authority has now backed them, but they say the firm still has “too much wiggle room”.
The couple are among hundreds whose weddings were cancelled by the Covid lockdown and who are now set to receive bigger refunds.
“After engaging constructively with the CMA, Bijou has now agreed to change its policy to offer a fairer level of partial refund to consumers who did not want to reschedule their wedding,” the authority said.
“If the company had not done this, the CMA could have taken it to court.”
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But Mr Gibbs said the CMA ruling was “far too ambiguous” and questioned why a package holiday could be refunded in full while a wedding was subject only to a partial refund.
Out of pocket
“Following CMA action, Bijou Weddings group will now provide fairer refunds to couples whose weddings could not go ahead because of coronavirus,” the watchdog said.
“At the start of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, no weddings were able to take place at Bijou’s venues between 23 March and 4 July.
“Bijou offered to reschedule these weddings at no cost, but couples who did not want to rearrange were only offered a very limited refund and would have been left significantly out of pocket by Bijou’s refund policy.”
The CMA said couples affected should have been charged only an amount that contributed to the costs the firm had already incurred.
The CMA said Bijou would not have to give refunds to people who had already received, or were going to receive, their money back through their insurance.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said it was “good news” that Bijou had agreed to offer higher refunds.
“As lockdown lifts, couples around the country are still dealing with the impact of expensive wedding receptions that couldn’t go ahead as planned, and it’s important that they get the refunds they are due,” he said.
“We’re also writing an open letter to all wedding businesses, and directly to some, reminding them of their legal obligations.”
Sam Cutmore-Scott, director of Bijou Weddings, said: “We look forward to working through the agreed partial refunds process with those of our customers who have been affected by the coronavirus lockdown and who have not rescheduled their weddings.”
Adam Gibbs, 36, and Sarah Summerskill, 33, from Woking, were unable to get married in May, but were told they would have to pay the venue an 80% cancellation charge.
Mr Gibbs told the BBC: “Some five months down the tracks, Bijou still hold on to £13,000 of our cash.
“No business should look to profit from their customers when something unforeseen happens. This is even more important when the service they are supplying should be the happiest day of their customers’ lives.
“If Bijou were reasonable from the offset, they would have maintained goodwill with their customers and a positive reputation which they could be proud of. Instead of which, the opposite legacy will exist.
“This whole matter should never have required the CMA to try and force Bijou’s hand.”
“We are still very concerned that Bijou have been left far too much wiggle room and will use this CMA publication to continue the merry dance of holding on to our money for even longer,” he added.
- Coronavirus pandemic
- Competition and Markets Authority
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