New guidance for wedding services which have been, or will be, affected by the coronavirus pandemic from Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is available now.
If a couple's special day is or will be cancelled due to lockdown restrictions, the couple should be entitled to a refund, according to the Government department's advice.
However, if the wedding business has already provided some services to the couple – and incurred some costs – before it became apparent that the wedding couldn't go ahead, they may be entitled to keep some of the refund to cover those costs.
This will mainly affect couples who were due to get married between late March and late September 2020. In Lincolnshire, many weddings have been postponed to 2021 or later, however over 50 civil ceremonies have had to be cancelled this year with no new date yet set.
Throughout the pandemic, Lincolnshire Trading Standards has supported businesses to reopen, and trade safely and legally through their dedicated hotline. Advisors are still available on 01522 782189 to provide guidance on legal and fair trading practices.
In the event of a dispute between a couple and a business after the cancellation of a wedding, ultimately only a court can decide how the law applies in each case. The CMA's statement outlines their view on how the courts are likely to decide refunds, and what they will take into account.
Cllr Nick Worth, executive councillor for registration and celebratory services, said: "This has been a very trying year for businesses. And for couples due to get married I can't imagine the sleepless nights they've had wondering if their wedding will go ahead.
"If your wedding has been cancelled or changed, take a look at the guidance and have a conversation with your venue, florist, caterer, photographer or other service you've hired to discuss rearrangements or refunds."
Emma Milligan from Lincolnshire Trading Standards said consumers needed to be treated fairly, and businesses needed some clarity on what would be expected of them. She added:"It wouldn't be fair for one party to accept all the losses in relation to a cancelled wedding, and so this CMA statement gives some guidance on what couples and businesses can reasonably expect.
"We're sure businesses will act fairly and constructively where refunds or price reductions are due, and agree these with the customers. However, the CMA and Trading Standards can take complaints and look to take enforcement if a business is acting unfairly. Consumers can also initiate court proceedings against a business themselves."
For the full guidance, or to make a complaint to the CMA about a business acting unfairly, visit www.gov.uk/CMA.
You can also find consumer advice on the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer.