Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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985. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the discussions that have taken place with hotel representatives on the facilitation of weddings in hotels in view of Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5823/20]

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry, Fine Gael)
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The restrictions introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19 have led to the cancellation or deferral of many events and services, including wedding receptions. In many cases where it is not possible to proceed with a wedding reception due to these restrictions, the couple and the hotel will be able to agree on an alternative date and the question of a refund will not arise. 

Where a couple have placed a deposit with a hotel or other wedding venue, they have entered into a contract with the hotel or venue concerned. Whether a couple are entitled to a refund of their deposit where it is not possible to reschedule the wedding will depend in the first instance on the terms and conditions of their contract.  Couples who find themselves in this situation should first check the terms and conditions of their contract with the hotel or venue, and in particular the terms relating to cancellations and the refund of deposits and other pre-payments. If a term of the contract provides for the refund of deposits in the event of a cancellation, the business may not subsequently change that term without the consumer’s agreement.  While I fully appreciate that hotels are facing severe financial pressures at present, they should deal fairly with consumers who find it necessary to cancel contracts for weddings or other functions and are seeking a refund of their deposits. 

The terms of standard form contracts of the kind that typically govern weddings and other functions are subject to assessment for unfairness under the Regulations on unfair terms in consumer contracts.  The aim of the Regulations is to protect consumers against the abuse of power by sellers and suppliers, in particular by means of one-sided contract terms. The Regulations provide for example that among the terms that may be regarded as unfair are terms that permit sellers or suppliers to retain sums paid by the consumer where the latter decides not to perform the contract without providing for the consumer to receive compensation of an equivalent amount from the seller or supplier where the latter is the party cancelling the contract.  The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of the Regulations on the control of unfair terms in standard form consumer contracts.  Information on matters relating to consumer contracts, including on cancellations and refunds for wedding and other contracts, can be accessed on the CCPC website at .

The enormous disruption to commercial activity caused by Covid-19 has thrown up many difficult situations for consumers and businesses. If current consumer law proves not to have provided adequate protection for consumers in these situations, I will consider and, where justified, bring forward proposals to strengthen that law where I can do so without contravening EU consumer protection legislation. Later this year I will publish the Scheme of a comprehensive, consolidated Consumer Rights Bill that will set out rights and remedies for consumer contracts for goods, services, digital content and will include proposals to strengthen the existing provisions on unfair terms in consumer contracts. This Bill will provide an opportunity to address any gaps in consumer protection revealed by the application by businesses of the terms of consumer contracts in cases arising from Covid-19.

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