Disappointed brides and grooms will likely get thousands of pounds in refunds after the competition watchdog convinced a weddings company to refund them for cancelled celebrations.
Bijou Weddings Group will give “fairer refunds” to couples whose weddings were called off because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company had offered to reschedule weddings free of charge, but it only gave a very limited refund to those who did not want to cancel entirely.
“It is good news that Bijou has agreed to offer fairer levels of refunds to its customers, and we encourage other firms in the industry to follow suit,” said Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority.
“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.”
The CMA said that it believes the wedding company should only have taken a small cut for the costs it had already gone through because of a cancelled wedding.
Everything else should be returned to the couples, it said.
The watchdog said that it may have taken Bijou to court if it had not agreed to take these steps. It will not have to refund customers who are going to get a payout from their insurance companies.
The CMA also wrote to wedding providers to remind them of their obligations to customers.
Mr Coscelli added: “We’ve also published advice aimed at the wedding industry and consumers, outlining our view of how the law applies to refunds, including what, if any, deductions a wedding business can make, and unfair contract terms.
“We’re also writing an open letter to all wedding businesses, and directly to some, reminding them of their legal obligations.”
Bijou runs wedding venues including Notley Abbey, Cain Manor and Botleys Mansion.
Sam Cutmore-Scott, director of Bijou Weddings, said “Bijou has been in voluntary, regular and proactive contact with the CMA in recent weeks and is pleased to have reached a workable solution.
“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 French, a consumer rights expert at Which?, said: “We have previously reported multiple issues with wedding venues, including Bijou, shirking their legal responsibilities on refunds and cancellations by using potentially unfair terms and conditions, so it is good to see that the regulator is setting out its expectations, and stands ready to take enforcement action against businesses who continue to breach the law.”