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Don’t get tied in knots over wedding cancellation

At a time when a health and economic crisis has hit the world, we are hearing of some companies that are taking advantage and not adhering to their legal obligations. Whilst the majority of businesses are doing the right thing by their customers, many are not. They are hoping that consumers do not know their legal rights or believe that consumer rights don’t apply in this situation, when they most certainly do!

For example, we have heard of many airlines breaching the law and only offering vouchers or making it very difficult for customers to claim full refunds, for example. Coronavirus and travel – who’s taking advantage? And for what your rights are and how to assert them see Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained

Another sector not playing by the rules is wedding venues.

outside of a hotel front door with canopy

Hotels, that are also often hired for weddings, have, of course, had to cancel events due to COVID-19. The consumer is not cancelling, the venue is, so the venue is in breach of contract and should make a full refund. However, a number of them are charging a cancellation fee, stating that it is in their terms and conditions. The venue is cancelling, so this could be deemed an unfair contract term and condition under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUTRs) and the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is closely monitoring businesses through this period. It has the power to open a consumer enforcement if it finds strong and compelling evidence that the law might have been broken and can call on the company or companies to change their behaviour by committing to formal undertakings or promises. If they refuse, then the case can be taken to court. It is asking consumers to report price hikes or making misleading claims about their products and services. Its report published 24 April 2020 stated that:

“• As of 19 April, the CMA had received just under 21,000 COVID-19 related complaints, of which 14,000 have come via its dedicated online form.
• The CMA has written to 187 firms accounting for over 2,500 complaints about large price rises for personal hygiene products, such as hand sanitiser and food products.
• Complaints relating to cancellations and refunds now account for 4 out of 5 complaints being received.”

A spokesperson for the CMA said “CMA will not hesitate to take enforcement action if there is evidence that businesses have breached competition or consumer protection law.”

So what can you do if you have booked and paid for a venue and it is now refusing to refund you?

1) Write. Always write so that you have an evidence trail. Go straight to the top. Write to the CEO getting the contact from ceoemail.com You are unlikely to get a response from the CEO but it will help to escalate the matter.

2) In the current circumstances it would help to support businesses if you accepted a new date for the event, at no extra cost, if you can. But this should be like for like. For example a weekend date for a weekend or a partial refund  if it is a weekday.

Update July 2020. As weddings start to start again…! This is the KEY thing. It has to be like for like. So although it may have been clearer before (i.e. it couldn’t go ahead) it still stands. IF you booked for X and you can only do Y (e.g. fewer guests) you ARE entitled to a full refund or like for like postponement.

3) If you are not able to do this, state that you require a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as the company is in breach of contract.

4) Include in your email the date by which you expect to hear back from them and what you will do if you do not receive a satisfactory response.

5) Say that if you are not fully satisfied with their response, you will not hesitate in taking the matter further. This will include, but not be limited to, reporting them to the CMA, sharing your experience on social media and seeking redress through the Small Claims Court or will be contacting your Credit Card company or bank A guide to credit and debit cards and the Consumer Credit Act 1974

6) If they are relying on any unfair terms and conditions such as unrefundable deposit then quote from the CPUTRs (link above).

7) If you do use Section 75 and are refused take the case to the Financial Ombudsman.

8) If you have wedding insurance you could also try using this and if you have difficulty take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman. However, it is worth noting that insurance is there if YOU cancel. The Insurance company is likely to correctly say that the venue should be paying up. It may get more complicated for other services regarding the wedding!

9) Once Government advice is that wedding venues can run as normal and offer you the same service as you booked e.g. for 200 guests and 200 are allowed then you will need to go ahead or forfeit any costs as it will be you changing your mind and breaking the contract. In these circumstances you insurance may cover you as it is there for if you not the venue cancels.

10) I am amazed by the number of people who have contacted me all of whom are taking up my time and asking for my expert help for free without a “Please” or a “Thank you”. When you try and negotiate with a venue or are asking anything of anybody manners go a long way!

This advice goes for all the associated services too!

Coronavirus - how to ensure you gain redress when a venue cancels

It is outrageous that companies are treating customers this way. Ultimately it will backfire, as now more than ever consumers are taking note of which companies are doing the right thing by their customers and which ones are not.

Wedding venues and insurance getting refunds

Businesses can take advantage of Government schemes, such as furloughing staff, and business grants and not least insurance if they properly protected themselves. But the consumer has no such cover. Consumers can only rely on the law and the law should be upheld.

Ultimately only a court can decide if a company is in breach of consumer law. However, it is unlikely any company in breach of contract would want to go to court and let the flood gates open….”

Further Covid and consumer rights related help

Covid 19: Guidance for small weddings and civil partnerships Government updated advice on numbers of people who can attend venues etc.

See Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained for more about holidays, travel, rights and how to assert them.

See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel for more advice and help including coronavirus related travel/events.

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo

 

For more advice, tips and templates for complaining  see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

Hotel sign and how to get a full refund on venue cancellations

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Latest News Laws Topical

The Whirlpool Washing Machine whitewash

White goods giant fails its customers – again!

Washing machine recall

The white goods company Whirlpool, which produces the Hotpoint and Indesit brands, is yet again putting profits before the safety of its customers. On 17 December 2019 it announced a recall of certain models of washing machines manufactured between 2014 and 2018.

However, this is not a full recall. The company previously failed its customers who bought faulty tumble dryers. Once again, the company is telling customers to unplug the machine because of the possible risk of fire. And yet again, the company is already behaving poorly in its communications with its customers.

According to the BBC :

“… about 20%, of the Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines sold since 2014 are affected by the fault. Up to 519,000 washing machines sold in the UK are involved.

Seventy-nine fires are thought to have been caused by the fault which develops over time, according to Whirlpool, which owns the brands.

‘When the heating element in the washing machine is activated, in very rare cases a component in the door lock system can overheat, which, depending on product features, can pose a risk of fire,’ Whirlpool said.”

So, over the Christmas and New Year period, affected customers could find themselves unable to use their washing machines. If they do, the advice is to use them only on the cold cycle.

Whirlpool at the point of writing provides this website as giving more information https://washingmachinerecall.whirlpool.co.uk/ There is no other website available. At the point of writing there are still issues and it only provides phone numbers

Update 15.00pm the site now works!

0800 316 1442

The list of affected machines is below:

The Whirlpool washing machine recall

Whirlpool has said it will start a repair or replacement programme but no refunds are being offered and there is so far no detail on the replacements. They have also said that this process will not start until January 2020!

A repair in the home or a like for like exchange.

 

Sue Davies, Which? Strategic Policy Advisor, said:

“This safety alert will cause huge disruption for millions of people who will have no washing machine over Christmas, and following the tumble dryer scandal, leaves Whirlpool’s reputation as a company that can be trusted on product safety in tatters.”

Lessons not learnt

I find it extraordinary that Whirlpool appears to have learnt nothing from the previous Tumble Dryer saga, where it was finally forced to undertake a full recall of all affected machines.

Dangerous dryers under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands were sold in the UK for 11 years. They were blamed for 750 fires in the UK and yet it has taken 4 years to finally get Whirlpool to carry out a full recall, rather than continue with its modification programme. Up to 800,000 such dryers were estimated to still be in use when the full recall began.

The full Whirlpool story

Fire Whirlpool The tumble dryer story without the spin

 

I have followed the Whirlpool tumble dryer story since it broke in November 2015 and compiled Whirlpool – The tumble dryer story without the spin which outlines what happened up until April 2018. It includes research with details of apparent contradictions in advice provided by Whirlpool, results of Freedom of Information Requests to Government departments and Peterborough Trading Standards, London Fire Brigade statistics and recommendations, research and investigations. All in one place.

 

Following from this I continued to report and give opinion as news broke:

12 June 2019  The Government orders full Whirlpool tumble dryer recall – at last! The Consumer Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, announced that the Government intends to serve Whirlpool with a full recall notice for all tumble dryers that are at risk of fire.

10 July 2019 Whirlpool FINALLY undertakes full recall of tumble dryers details the announcement made.

13 September 2019 Whirlpool gets proactive about recalls – At last! post outlines the situation 3 months on from it being forced to make a recall with an update 01/11/19 regarding “Whirlpool used “chilling” non-disclosure agreements “to silence customers” while fire-prone tumble dryers remained in UK homes, MPs say.”

Remember your rights!

Under the Consumer Rights Act (post 01 October 2015 and the Sale of Goods Act prior to that) you are entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality, free from defects and that last a reasonable length of time. You are also entitled to any out of pocket expenses, so if you are having to a launderette, keep all the evidence of travel and service costs and claim them.

  1. In the first instance, if you have an affected machine, unplug the machine. Despite Whirlpool advising that customers can use the machine on a cold cycle Electrical First advises otherwise. “Electrical Safety First strongly recommends that anyone who discovers they have an electrical item that has been recalled should stop using it until it has been checked by the manufacturer.”
  2. Check the website to see if it is now working or phone the number above.
  3. Arrange for a replacement or repair.
  4. Keep records of any out of pocket expenses (e.g. travel, having to use a launderette when your machine is out of action)
  5. People are really struggling when ‘phoning to get the visit arranged. I would advise putting your request in writing. Please see here for the reason why.
  6. Do not waste much time ranting on social media.
  7. If you think the time to wait is too long, or you have been kept waiting longer than they advised or you want to claim, then go straight to the top. Go to  ceoemail.com for the Whirlpool CEO’s email address and contact the CEO outlining the issues. You won’t get a personal response but you should get one from his office and it gives you the evidence trail you may need.
  8. Use the Tips for effective complaining and the bestselling book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! which has more advice and templates.  State that you want a replacement machine or the engineer appointment brought forward.
  9. The Consumer Protection Act 1987 states that if you are harmed by an unsafe product you can sue the manufacturer. You can begin your court case up to three years from the date of the injury. In some cases, you can even sue up to ten years after the product was sold, if, for instance, you sustain a personal injury or damage to your property. The value of the damage must be more than £275.
  10. Your contract is normally with the company to which you paid the money. However, as the manufacturer has admitted fault, your correspondence should be with them as in this case the manufacturer is responsible, not the trader. But you could also contact the retailer and request a replacement or repair, you may find that a good retailer will also act on your behalf and get an engineer out to you quicker, or offer a refund. If you find the retailer unhelpful and the retailer is a member you can also go to the Furniture Ombudsman .
  11. The “General Product Safety Regulations 2005” dictates that manufacturers must make arrangements for the collection and/or return of the product for destruction from consumers who have purchased the product.
  12. If you bought the dryer on your credit card you can also use the Consumer Credit Act 1974 Section 75 as the credit card company is equally liable and it should give you a refund.

 

It is really shocking to see such behaviour from Whirlpool. It continues to not put consumers safety first, to be communicating poorly and not doing the right thing. It is refusing to give people refunds on machines so that people can purchase one from another brand too! I would not buy anything from Whirlpool and I wonder how many other consumers feel the same way.  Will this latest debacle be enough to cause the brand to fail?

(About 5.40 in) I talk to Andrew Pierce about the issues.

Whirlpool