The last thing a couple need when planning their wedding is being pressured into making a wrong decision. Unfortunately this happens far too often on multiple fronts, and it can be exhausting trying not to get ripped off right left and centre. The build-up to the wedding should be an enjoyable process and not a financial minefield. The average wedding cost in England is £20,500, and with the hire of a venue that can run into thousands of pounds this is a significant portion of the budget. Yet many venues take advantage of their clientele by insisting on large deposits and advance payments, with cancellation fees that can be excessive or sometimes not returned at all.
Just a few weeks ago the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) wrote to over 100 wedding venues in the UK reprimanding them of this behaviour, and reminding them of their legal obligations. Although that number is only a fraction of all wedding venues in the country, the message of the letter is addressed to the industry as a whole. They concluded that excessive cancellation charges, even when contracts had been signed, were not legally binding. They reminded the venues of consumer law, and that asking for large deposits and imposing large cancellation fees was not legal or appropriate. The letter also asks that businesses only take a small percentage of the total price as deposit, and that any advance payments were fair and gave the client a reasonable time to pay. And finally the CMA said that consumers should not lose large advance payments if their plans change and they give enough notice, suggesting a sliding scale where cancellation charges are transparent and reflect the true cost.
This is certainly a step in the right direction, standing up for the client and admitting that pricing policies are not always fair, but there is no legal enforcement as of yet, and this only an appeal to voluntarily comply. No warning or threat of legal enforcement has been implied, so whether this is enough to make a difference within the industry’s culture remains to be seen. But at least the problem has not gone unnoticed and the issue is being acknowledged.
So be aware of payment terms when booking your wedding venue. Knowing your consumer rights might save you a headache and a bunch of money.
If you have any problems with deposits or down payments at your wedding venue, or feel you have been unfairly charged an excessive cancellation fee, you can get free legal advice at a Citizen’s Advice Bureau (www.citizensadvice.
org.uk), and a complaint can be lodged directly with the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) by visiting www.gov.uk/ government/publications/ report-anti-competitive-or- market-issues-to-the-cma