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Alex J.
Alex J., Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 3655
Experience:  Solicitors 2 years plus PQE
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My friend engaged the services of a wedding planner via

Customer Question

My friend engaged the services of a wedding planner via telephone and email and signed a contract dated 20th May and paid a 50% deposit (£1500). Her first consultation face to face meeting took place with the planner on 31st May (the WP wasn't available before then). After the meeting my friend felt that the WP was not competent enough to meet her needs and her there was no chemistry. On 4th July, I sent an email to the planner expressing my concerns on behalf of my friend (who is not a native English speaker) asking the wedding planner to release them from the contract and return the deposit less expenses incurred to date. She has refused as she says the deposit is non refundable.
In the contract my friend signed it states that "The fee is set following a consultation with the Client. Also that the "Fee shall be payable within 7 days from signing the Contract. My friend paid and signed in good faith on 20th following only a telephone conversation to discuss services offered and a brief outline of the help she would need. Is this telephone call a 'consultation' or a provisional enquirey?
Even so, from signing on 20th to a first project meeting on 31st when would a 14 day cooling off period be counted from? The WP states she doesn't have a cooling off period in her contract but isn't that UK law anyway?
Thanks
Risi
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you for your question and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I will assist you. As the contract was conducted by what is known as "distance selling" - a cooling off period applies by law. It does not have to be in her contract. I would write to her as follows -

(i) Say she is in breach of your consumer rights by denying a cooling off period. All contracts that are sold by distance selling - are subject to the Distance Selling Regulations;

(ii) Say while you are prepared to pay reasonable expenses, if the deposit is not otherwise immediately returned you reserve the right to either:

- Report her to trading standards;

- Or commence proceedings against her in the county court.

(iii) Say ultimately she never informed you the deposit was non refundable, and you believe a court would just view the charge as a penalty for terminating the contract - which is unenforceable.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards AJ

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi AJ
Thanks for coming back to me. I would appreciate some further clarity.Is a cooling off period 14 days? If so, in this case would that be the date of the contract signing i.e. 20th May or would it be from the first face to face meeting?The WP's contract provision for Cancellations states the this must be done 'by giving us written notice to be received at least 12 weeks prior to the wedding date. .... Any cancellation received by the WP less than 12 weeks prior to your wedding date will be subject to the settlement of the unpaid balance of Our Fee....'You are correct she never did inform us that the Deposit was non refundable - I think her line is that we are within the 12 week date before the wedding even though her services were only agreed to at 13 weeks and one day before the wedding!ThanksRisi
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. The cooling off period is 14 days from the date the contract was made. So if you cancelled the contract on 4 June you are within the cooling off period. The term in the contract cannot contract you out of your consumer rights ie your right to a cooling off period. Presumably she did not actually provide you with any services other than the meeting?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
There was the meeting and she has done some work with contacting suppliers for quotes and setting up a project schedule. We have offered to pay her for any time she has already incurred. Just to be clear, is the 14 day period working days or calendar days?
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. It is just 14 calendar days. Not 14 business days. Kind regards AJ

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
then we were not within the 14 days cooling off period since the signing on the contract? 20th May to 4th June but May has 31 days??
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. Did you pay the deposit on the 20th May? When did the deposit money reach her?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I expect payment was made by BACS on 20th when signed contract was emailed back to the WP. Receipt was acknowledged on 26th May. There was an automated out of office reply from the our email to her when we sent the contract saying she was out until 26th May.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Just to be clear, I mean the WP replied with confirmation of receipt of payment and contract on 26th May.
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. I think you have enough discrepancy in the time line for you to argue that the 14 day cooling off period is still valid and you gave notice accordingly. Unless you have a contractual right to termination, this is the easiest way of ensuring that your deposit is returned. I would at least try and press her to repay you. At the end of the day you have offered to pay reasonable expenses. If she kept the rest of the deposit, that would just represent a penalty for contractual breach especially when no services have been provided.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
What if she still refuses to return the deposit?
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. If she still refuses to return it then you can complain to Trading Standards

https://www.gov.uk/find-local-trading-standards-office or you will have to consider suing her.

Alex J. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi AJYesterday the WP has offered to refund 50% of the deposit. i.e. £800. She does not acknowledge the 14 day cooling off period - she says she doesn't include that in her contract!
I just want to be sure,
1. the 14 day cooling off period is valid for contracts made via telephone, email/internet.2. Wedding planning services count under this rule
3. The contract was dated 19th May, but sent to her via email on 20th May and BACS payment was made on that day. She only acknowledged receipt of this on 26th May. Which of these three dates 19th or 20th or 26th is the date which is valid with regard to the 14 day cooling off period?Thanks for your help on this.Risi
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. ***** would be of the opinion that the 20th is correct date, but given you are relying on the cooling off period and she has acknowledged it applies then you have grounds to argue it is the 26th on the basis that this is the date she acknowledge receipt of payment. You get some leeway given that you are a consumer.

In relation to the offer you can either accept it or make a counter offer. Personally I would try and settle this as quickly as possible, going to court will waste time and money that you will not necessarily recover even if you won.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
OK thanks. I think we will try for 25%. Could you please give me the 'leagal' jargon/definition with regard to the cooling off period so that I can include this in my email to her as she seems to be unaware of it or is there a website that I can go to to get it from?
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. Please see attached a link to the government advice on the topic. https://www.gov.uk/online-and-distance-selling-for-businesses/overview - selling over the phone falls under the Distance Selling Regulations - this means you have a 14 day cooling off period. Kind regards AJ

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Do I refer to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 or the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 or both?
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. I would refer to the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. Kind regards AJ

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Good morning AJ. I ddn't seem to get an answer from you regarding my last question? Can you help please?
Thanks. Risi
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. My apologies was your last question:

"Do I refer to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 or the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 or both?" - If so I would suggest you reference the Consumer Contract Regulations. Kind regards AJ
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi AJ
I sent a letter today to the Wedding Planner - well actually my friend did stating that she was within her rights to cancel etc. but offering to allow the WP to keep 25% of her deposit £412.50 to cover costs of any work she did already. She replied now acknowledging the 14 day cooling off period but saying that the email I sent on 4th July was 1. on the 15th day and 2. that it came from me (the friend) and not from the Bride who contracted her.
Point 1, I feel we are OK with as my understanding is that the 14 days starts the day after the contract is signed. Point 2 is correct inasmuch that I sent the email requesting a cancellation but I am not the person she has the contract with. The reason I wrote to her instead of the bride is because we were not sure then of the legal position and felt that should the bride have to continue working with her it would be awkward so my letter was an attempt to be diplomatic and impersonal. I also gave her my reasons for wishing to cancel but the key text was :
"Please would you consider releasing Ana and Rupert from their engagement of your services? Naturally, any costs you have already incurred and time spent would be deducted. I realise that technically they are just outside of the 14 day contractual cooling off period but one could take the view that the meeting this week was really the start of the agreement/working relationship."She replied on the same day:
"Ana has signed a contract with me, and paid an initial deposit which, as the signed contract states, is non-refundable, so if Ana and Rupert do wish to cancel my services, I’m afraid this cannot be returned. The contract does also state that a cancellation is required in writing at least 12 weeks prior to a wedding date, but I would be happy to bypass this clause if they do wish to cancel, as a significant amount of time has not yet been spent on the wedding.I have sent Ana [the bride] an email this afternoon with a proposed timeline, and all quotes I have obtained for them so far, so I will leave the decision with Ana and Rupert, and await to hear from them if they would like me to continue working with them or would prefer to look for another Planner who has worked with the venue previously."To this email I asked her if that meant she was releasing them from the contract and returning their full deposit less her costs and she replied:"I think you have misread my email, so will cover each clause separately for clarity:I'm afraid the deposit paid by Ana and Rupert is non-refundable, regardless of cancellation or not.The contract states that a written cancellation is required at least 12 weeks prior to a wedding date, so as we are within this, in accordance with my contract, the remaining balance would also be due in case of a cancellation.
I would be willing to bypass the 12 week cancellation policy clause, whereby the remaining balance would also be due in case of a cancellation."Does the WP have a case with point 2 that she did not technically receive a cancellation from the person she contracted with and therefore point 1 wouldn't count anyway.? I can forward to you all of the actual correspondence exchange if you think it would be more helpful?Many Thanks for your help on this.
Risi
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. Did she ever provide you with written terms and conditions say the contract is non refundable? Is the £800 refund still on offer?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi AJ
Yes, the £825 is still on offer.
The Invoice states: "50% deposit as per Terms and Conditions" but there are no T&Cs attached.
The Contract States:
"CANCELLATION
In the unlikely event of you wishing to cancel the WP's services, you must do so by giving written notice to be received at least 12 weeks prior to your wedding date. Upon receipt of a cancellation letter, and following settlement of all our invoices issued prior to your cancellation, we will provide you with all relevant information in our possession relating to your wedding.
Any cancellation received by the WP less than 12 weeks prior to your wedding date will be subject to the settlement of the unpaid balance of Our Fee....."Under Budget and Fees is written:
"The fee is set following a consultation with the Client, if, at any stage, you require additional services to those initially agreed, they will be subject to a separate written agreement.
Our Fess shall become due by the Client as follows:
50% of Our Fee shall be payable within 7 days from signing this contract
The remaining balance shall be payable one month prior to the wedding date
The client shall pay each invoice submitted by the WP, in full and in cleared funds, within days of the date of the invoice. The client acknowledges that each payment due under these terms is non-refundable."Just a reminder in case it's relevant. The WP was engaged only 13 weeks prior to the wedding and the first face to face consultation and briefing about the wedding was 11 weeks and 4 days before the wedding date. I understand from other WPs that for the services this WP was engaged for i.e."Partial Wedding Planning, Design & Coordination" that the standard contract is amended to a shorter cancellation period. The contract she has used is more typical for full wedding planning services when typically engaging a planner 6 to 12 months before the wedding date. Also, my friend was unable to meet with the wedding planner earlier within the 14 day cooling off period as the WP was on holiday until 26th May.So AJ, what do you think??? Thanks. Risi
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. There are two issues going against you (i) There is some question mark or doubt as to whether you are within the cooling off period and (ii) The WP terms and conditions state that any payments are "non refundable". If you did not accept her offer you would have to sue and it would be up to a Judge to determine he to side with. Has the WP done any work of any use? I.e provided supplier contacts etc? I would consider the £825 offer if you consider that going to court is going to be hugely time consuming. Kind regards AJ

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