Coronavirus, cancelled weddings and lost deposits: what are your rights?
CORONAVIRUS, CANCELLED WEDDINGS AND LOST DEPOSITS: WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, with unprecedented impacts on the way we live our day to day lives. The entertainment industry, in particular, has been heavily impacted by governmental restrictions. Many brides and grooms to be have no choice but to cancel or postpone their weddings, particularly with new restrictions in place banning non-essential services including restaurants (except takeaway services), bars and pubs, and non-essential outdoor gatherings of over 500 people. So what happens to deposits or monies paid?
The answer to this question is based on your contract with your suppliers. Below we outline possible circumstances where a contract may be considered void, or where you may receive a refund of deposits and other monies paid if suppliers are unable to transfer your wedding to a later date.
Does the contract include a force majeure clause?
This will depend on the wording of individual contracts. A force majeure clause generally has the following features:
A description of a force majeure event. The contract may simply refer to a general description of a force majeure event such as “an unreasonably foreseeable event” or an “event not anticipated by the parties at the time of signing”. Alternatively, the contract may list events that trigger a force majeure event, such as weather or health related events;
The clause requires notice to be given by one party, to the other, that such a force majeure event has occurred, or may occur; and
The clause allows for the suspension or termination of the Parties’ performance under the contract resulting from the force majeure event.
If you are unsure whether or not your contract contains a force majeure clause, we encourage you to contact our office. Should your contract not contain a force majeure clause, frustration may be relied upon.
When will frustration apply?
A contract is considered to be frustrated if it is impossible to perform the contract due to events beyond the parties’ control. It is important that, at the time of entering into the contract, the parties had no knowledge or contemplation of the event prior to its occurrence. COVID-19 would likely fall under this category, particularly with restrictions on non-essential gatherings. As this is likely the case, the contract may be frustrated.
There are however circumstances in which frustration will not apply. If your contract or agreement with your suppliers contains a clause to deal with unforeseen events which relate to the current pandemic and subsequent government restrictions, frustration will not apply.
What if I am still unsure of my rights?
We note the above circumstances may not relate to each and every scenario, or you may be confused whether the above relates to you. Although your options will largely depend on the terms of your contract with your suppliers, we recommend that you seek legal advice before declaring frustration or force majeure. Should you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our Miss Bronte Strong on (03) 9304 9500.
Given the rapidly evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19, additional information may affect this article. To see whether this information relates to you, we ask that you ring our office on (03) 9304 9500.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from De Marco Lawyers and other relevant experts.