If your wedding plans have been cancelled or reduced in size by COVID-19, here's some useful information about registry weddings, and refunds for venues, dresses and shoes, and travel arrangements.
Remember we are still in a pandemic situation. If you are thinking of booking a wedding, make sure you check the terms and conditions to understand your rights – especially if Public Health Orders impose new restrictions.
Information for consumers
What are my options if my wedding has been cancelled or reduced in size due to COVID-19?
Your wedding may be cancelled or reduced in size due to the restrictions under Public Health Orders to address the risk of Covid-19. This impacts your rights under the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law, however, you may have other remedies available to you.
It is important that you first check the terms and conditions of your contract with each supplier, such as the venue, car hire, photographer, and caterer. The terms of the contract govern what options may be available to you.
After reviewing the contract, you may wish to engage with your suppliers to discuss all options. Generally, a negotiated outcome will lead to the best result for both parties. Your options may be:
- seeking a refund. Your entitlement to seek a refund and terminate your contract is affected by the terms and conditions. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you made your booking, businesses cannot change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.
- accepting a credit note or voucher. These allow you to use the money already paid to the supplier towards your wedding or event at a later date. Any credit notes or vouchers should have an expiration date that is long enough to allow you to use it, considering ongoing restrictions.
- negotiating with the supplier. You may wish for the event to go ahead but with changes to meet public health restrictions. You can negotiate with the supplier about making changes, like reducing the event’s size, or changing the location or activities. For example, a wedding of 300 people that could be held over two days, with 150 people attending per day, in order to comply with limits to size.
You may also have rights under contract law, such as ‘frustrated’ contracts. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract already addressing such events.
If you are unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law and the Australian Consumer Law.
Fair Trading encourages businesses to engage with consumers and treat them fairly in these exceptional circumstances.
What are my rights when a supplier refuses to give me a refund and only wants to arrange a date in the future or credit to use in the future?
If you can’t reach an agreement with the supplier, you need to check the terms and conditions of your contract.
If you have a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time you made your booking businesses can’t change the terms at a later time to deny you a refund.
Also, businesses can’t mislead consumers about the way their terms and conditions work. For example, claiming a consumer doesn’t have the option of a refund where this isn’t the case.
You may also have rights under contract law such as ‘frustrated’ contracts. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing such events.
If you’re unable to resolve the issue with your supplier, you should get independent legal advice to understand more about your rights under common law, contract law and the Australian Consumer Law.
NSW Fair Trading encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances.
Am I entitled to a refund if my wedding accommodation needs to be cancelled?
You need to check the terms and conditions of your contract with the supplier to understand any options available to you.
Approach the supplier to discuss these options and negotiate an outcome, which may include a credit note, voucher, or refund.
Where your provider can no longer perform under the contract due to government restrictions, you may also have rights under rights under common law and contract law.
We encourage all businesses to work with their customers and treat consumers fairly.
Will my wedding insurance cover cancellation due to the restrictions?
You should check the terms and conditions outlined in your insurance policy. If it’s unclear if you’re covered, contact your insurer to discuss restrictions and cancellation under your wedding or event insurance policy.
If you disagree with your insurer, discuss your complaint with them and explain the outcome you would prefer.
As part of the insurer’s internal dispute resolution, they will have a set number of days to respond to your dispute.
If your dispute remains unresolved, you can contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) for assistance.
The AFCA Significant Event Hotline 1800 337 444 provides priority service for those financially impacted by COVID-19 and who wish to make a complaint about financial products or services.
Will I receive a refund if the business shuts down as a result of the COVID-19 public health orders?
We suggest trying to contact the business to discuss a possible solution.
In certain situations, you would have to register as a creditor.
More information is available from Australian Securities and Investments Commission
How is COVID-19 effecting registry weddings?
Visit NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages for more information on registry weddings.
Why are my rights different when cancellation is due to public health restrictions?
Your rights under the Australian Consumer Law may be different when a cancellation is due to government restrictions such as current public health orders.
Normally, businesses have to provide consumer guarantees for their goods or services.
However, public health orders can affect these guarantees since they may make it unlawful for the supplier to supply the goods or services as agreed.
It should be noted that suppliers have to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence before they agree to supply goods or services.
For example, they should be taking into account restrictions already in place and assess the likelihood of being able to supply their goods or services for future events.
I bought my wedding dress from an overseas website and am worried it won’t be delivered. Can I cancel my order and get a refund?
If a supplier has accepted payment for your wedding dress, they must supply it to you by the date they have indicated or, if no time was specified, within a reasonable timeframe.
You should first contact your supplier to ask if the dress can still be delivered and, if so, when you can expect to receive it.
If the business advises your dress can no longer be supplied, you’re entitled to a refund or other remedies such as a credit note or voucher.
We understand many businesses are struggling to manage supply delays at this time due to circumstances outside their control.
We urge consumers to remain patient and understand it may take longer than usual for goods to be supplied.
Am I entitled to a refund if I return my unworn wedding dress, shoes, and bridesmaids’ dresses because I no longer need them?
You aren’t to entitled to a refund under the Australian Consumer Law if you want to return purchased wedding items you no longer require.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, you’re only entitled to a refund or exchange if your product fails to meet a consumer guarantee.
The outcome you’re entitled to will depend on if you have a major or minor problem with the product.
What if government restrictions indirectly affect my wedding?
If you have booked a wedding that is permitted under a Public Health Order, but you wish to postpone or cancel because it is indirectly affected by government restrictions imposed on cluster areas (for example, some of your guests are from a cluster area and cannot attend as they are subject to restrictions), you should check the terms and conditions of your booking. These terms and conditions should outline options available to you, such as your rights to terminate the contract, seek a refund, or change the date.
If you have a right to a refund under your terms and conditions, businesses and suppliers cannot deny that refund. Businesses cannot mislead consumers about the operation of their terms and conditions, such as claiming that a consumer does not have the option of a refund when this is not the case.
If you do not have an explicit right to a refund, you can negotiate with the business to make changes to the wedding, such as reducing the size of the wedding or rescheduling. We encourage all businesses to work with their customers and treat consumers fairly in these exceptional circumstances. Renegotiation can only happen if the business and consumer both agree.
If you are unable to resolve the issue with the business or supplier, you should obtain independent legal advice. It is unlikely you will be entitled to a refund under consumer guarantees under Australian Consumer Law, Still, you may have rights under legislation or contract law, such as “frustrated” contracts. A frustrated contract which can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside the control of both parties, and there is no terms in the contract already addressing such events.
Information for businesses
My customer’s booking can no longer go ahead due to government restrictions. Do I have to provide a refund?
Where an event, such as a wedding, can’t go ahead due to government restrictions, it’s unlikely the customer will be entitled to a refund under the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law.
However, businesses must still honour the existing terms and conditions of their contract with the customer. This includes terms about termination, non-performance, refunds or changes.
Businesses may wish to offer the customer a credit note or voucher. However, they can’t mislead customers about their terms and conditions such as claiming a customer doesn’t have the option of a refund where this isn’t the case.
Businesses should also be aware the customer may have rights under contract law, such as ‘frustrated’ contracts. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract addressing such events.
Fair Trading encourages all businesses to work with their customers and treat customers fairly.
My customer wants to cancel their booking because changes must be made to adhere to government restrictions. Is this considered a ‘change of mind’ cancellation?
If the event can’t be performed as originally agreed, terminating the contract may not qualify as a change of mind.
The customer will have the options stated in their contract including any terms or conditions about termination, non-performance, refunds, or changes.
Customers may also have rights under contract law such as ‘frustrated’ contracts. This can occur where a contract can no longer be performed as agreed due to events outside of the control of both parties, and there is no term in the contract already addressing such events.
Businesses can offer to renegotiate a contract with a customer to accommodate changes in line with government restrictions. However, renegotiation can only occur if both parties to the contract agree.
If the customer decides to cancel the event, am I able to keep the customer’s deposit or upfront payment, or charge a cancellation fee?
Whether or not you can keep an amount if the event doesn’t go ahead will depend on the terms and conditions of your contract with the customer, and what costs you’ve already incurred.
Some contracts may allow for a cancellation fee, or for the business to retain a deposit to cover expenses, in situations where the contract can no longer be performed. In this case, Fair Trading expects the business to be upfront about this to the customer when discussing remedies.
They should explain to the customer:
- there is a fee
- the amount to be charged or retained, and
- the reasons why the fee is being charged or retained (including identifying your legal right to do so).
If requested, the business should provide an itemised breakdown of any amounts charged or retained to justify the expense.
However, a term that allows the business to keep a full deposit or upfront payment without having delivered any goods or services (i.e. incurred any costs) may be considered unfair under the unfair contract terms provisions of the Australian Consumer Law.
This is because it may not be reasonably necessary to retain the full deposit to protect legitimate business interests.
A contract term can be declared unfair by a court where it is then void and can no longer be enforced. For resources on unfair contract terms, see below.
Helpful resources for businesses reviewing contract terms and conditions
Businesses wanting to change the terms and conditions of future bookings should be mindful of the unfair contract term provisions under the Australian Consumer Law.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has information for businesses on unfair contract terms available on their website.
There are new disclosure obligations for NSW businesses that require customers are made aware of key terms in contracts, including cancellation or exit fees.
Businesses may also contact the Small Business Commissioner. Visit the Help Centre for information for businesses on COVID-19 issues.
Businesses who are members of industry associations can also approach that association to see if they can offer their members any model terms or conditions.
If businesses are still unsure about changes to their terms and conditions, they should seek independent legal advice.