Regulator Competition Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a programme to investigate reports of businesses failing to respect cancellation rights for weddings, holiday accommodation, and childcare during the coronavirus pandemic.
These complaints now account for four out of five of those received by the CMA coronavirus taskforce.
Issues so far have included concerns about businesses refusing refunds or firms pressuring people to accept vouchers for holiday accommodation, which can only be used during a more expensive period.
Weddings across the country have been rearranged or cancelled due to the outbreak and subsequent lockdown. The UK wedding market is estimated to be worth around £10bn ($12.5bn) annually and many couples are hoping to recoup money spent on ceremonies through insurance.
However, many insurers in this corner of the market are refusing to payout on claims.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates around £1.2bn will be paid out by UK insurers over the coronavirus pandemic but just £25m of that will be on wedding, school trip, and event cover. (This partly reflects the small size of the wedding insurance market.)
Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the CMA, said: “Alongside price-gouging reports, we’re now seeing cancellation issues in their thousands. The current situation is throwing up challenges for everyone, including businesses, but that does not mean that consumer rights can fall by the wayside.”
Instances where the CMA would expect a full refund issued include:
When a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services. They would also expect a refund in times where no service is provided by a business, or when a consumer is forced to cancel due to government restrictions.
The regulator acknowledges that most businesses are acting reasonably in what are unprecedented circumstances, but if it finds evidence that companies are failing to comply with the law, it may take them to court if they do not address concerns.
Individuals can also take their own legal action against unfair terms should they choose to. They can also report businesses using the CMA’s online form.