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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 25358
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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Unfortunately, my daughter has had to cancel her wedding, four

Resolved Question:

Unfortunately, my daughter has had to cancel her wedding, four weeks before the wedding date. The reception venue (which required payment in advance) says it will not refund any of the money paid, and had a standard (non-negotiated) contract with 100% cancellation charges within a few months of the date.
I understand that the Unfair Terms of Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 specifically include unfair cancellation charges as an example of an unfair contract term. They suggest that reasonable cancellation charges could include admin and marketing costs, costs of any work done so far (none in this case), and loss of profit.
Is this correct, and - if so - how should I proceed to recover some payment from the wedding reception venue?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 10 years experience. May I ask if the venue was able to find another function for the venue on the date please to your knowledge?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

No, they were not.

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. Do you know if they tried?Did the fees paid include food, staff and other consumables or just the venue hire?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

The fees paid included food, wine and champagne, venue hire (and presumably staff).

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. You are quite right to refer to the UTCCRs. The relevant provisions from the regulations for this situation are:‘a contract term that has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer’. and‘Permitting the seller or supplier to retain sums paid by the consumer where the latter decides not to conclude or perform the contract, without providing for the consumer to receive compensation of an equivalent amount from the seller or supplier where the latter is the party cancelling the contract.’ the position here is that if your daughter cancelled the venue hire four weeks prior to the wedding, the venue must under common law attempt to mitigate its losses and readvertise the venue for hire. If it is able to secure an alternative client even if this is at a lower cost than was charged to your daughter, it must refund the amount it was able to charge to that third party less any reasonable administration fees to your daughter. If it was unable despite re-advertising the venue to find a replacement client for that date, it can keep some of the money your daughter paid though not likely all of it. if they had noticed the wedding was not going to go ahead, then they should refund the cost of consumables such as alcohol and food which was not consumed. In addition, they should refund staffing costs unless the staff are on full-time contracts and had to be paid anyway which is relatively rare. In essence, the venue is entitled to retain the profit element is expected to make from the venue hire but must refund the costs it did not incur as a result of the cancellation. The venue is not entitled to profit from the fact of the cancellation - as things stand, it still has all of the alcohol which can be resold and presumably it did not purchase the food so far ahead nor did it incur staffing costs just as examples. Accordingly, you can ask the venue to provide a full breakdown of the basis of how it justifies the cancellation fee it proposes to enforce as against the breakdown of the quote your daughter received and you can look to claim the various costs the venue did not incur back. In addition, if you can demonstrate that the venue did not make any attempt to re-advertise the venue for hire, it may not be able to keep all of the profit element it would have expected to make because the venue has failed to attempt to mitigate its losses by readvertising the venue. If it is not able to demonstrate that it did readvertise the venue, you may be up to seek a percentage of the actual profit element back as well. Finally, I assume your daughter either did not have wedding insurance or is unable to make a claim against it as you do not mention insurance but in the event your daughter did have wedding insurance, it goes without saying that you may wish to inspect the policy to see if the claim is available under its terms. I hope the above is of assistance? If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to click to rate my service to you today or just reply back to let me know if the above is helpful. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me I'd be very grateful
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you - very useful feedback. I plan to contact the venue setting out the points you've made. A few more questions:

1. If the venue refuses to refund any payment, what next steps should I consider (eg small claims court?).

2. What costs would I incur at a small claims court?

3. Is reference to the UTCCR plus the points you make sufficient input to make a case, or would I need to construct something more specific or detailed? (is precedent relevant?)

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Im glad it was useful. Before I respond to the above, could you give me a ballpark estimate of the figure you might expect back using the above guidance? Ballpark guess is fine - it is just for working out likely court fees
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Ballpark numbers:

I've paid the venue £14K; the final total cost would have been less than this (say £11-12K). I would hope to get, say, 50% of the £11-12K back, and am assuming they must refund the difference between what I've paid and the final total cost in any case.

One more point - profit on a wedding reception is difficult to estimate; I do know that the profit on the food is quite low (perhaps £5 on a £50 cost per person).

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Many thanks. Your questions:1. You would need to consider a letter before action which is a letter advising them that unless they make payment of the amount you demand (which you have worked out following inspection of their detailed breakdown of costs using the above principles) you will have no option but to issue a claim in the county court for the monies within 7 or 10 days plus that if you are forced to do so you will also claim costs and interest at 8% per annum under s69 County Courts Act.2. It is probably better that I give you a link to the costs guide rather than setting it out again here. There is a court fee according to value of the claim (page 3) then if the matter proceeds to a hearing and is not settled before there is a hearing fee according to value (page 5). If less than £10K this would be a small claims claim.http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/ex050-eng.pdf3. Reference to the UTCCR and the common law obligation to mitigate loss is sufficient. There is little caselaw precedent for this sort of dispute becuase they are typically resolved at county court level which courts do not make case law. Statute law (UTCCR) provides the authority you need.4. It is for the venue to justify profit where it seeks to retain monies on the grounds of profit. FOr example re food my view would be to seek the entire value of the food back and it is then for them to defend any retention on the grounds of profit. The same is true of alcohol and so on. If you consider a profit claim to be unreasonable you can demand further information to justify their claims.Have I been able to help you with all your questions on the above?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes - your answers have been very thorough.

One more question - if I pursue this myself as you have indicated, will this carry sufficient weight, or should I use a lawyer? (This will incur further costs on top of the court costs to which you've referred).

Did I miss the link to court costs?

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
There will be no prejudice to you in not using a lawyer - small claims courts encourage it. The link to the court costs is showing on my page above - sorry if it is not on yours. Here it is just in case it is not visible for some reason: http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/ex050-eng.pdf I hope the above has been of assistance.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

All very helpful, thanks. I need to go away and work on this now. If I have any further questions later, how do I contact you again on this?

Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to click to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. This will also save the thread to your account and you can return to should you have any follow-up questions. I'm very happy to assist with any follow-up questions without further charge on a "fair use" basis if that makes sense. You should be able to return to the thread either via link you should have received in your email or from your customer home page on the site.If all else fails you can reach me using the following link:http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-joshua/
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Category: Law
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Experience: LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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