/ Money

Have you had a refund for a cancelled service?

With many services you may have already paid for now closed, some have been left out of pocket. Have you tried to claim back money for anything you’ve missed?

Many of you have told us you’ve paid for a service or have an ongoing regular payment that you haven’t been able to use because of lockdown, but have been struggling to get your money back.

For example, gyms and sports clubs have all had to close, not only leaving members wondering when they’ll be able to go back, but also leaving them out of pocket.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

We’ve heard about cancellations affecting everything from driving lessons to music classes to doggy daycare that you’ve paid for in advance to secure your place. 

Many of you have been offered credits, or told your service will be extended or postponed until things have returned to ‘normal.’ But we just don’t know when that will be.

We’ve also heard some businesses have told you they’re keeping your fees to help them keep their finances afloat, covering staff wages and rent.

Consumers should not have to prop up the travel industry

This shouldn’t be the case, because the government has pledged funds to support affected businesses, small and large, and the furlough scheme should pay out for staff who can’t go to work during lockdown.

But if you’re being refused a refund for, what can you do?

Can I claim using Section 75 or chargeback?

Probably not. Credit and debit card protection covers you if there’s been a breach of contract. But in this case, it’s not quite as clear cut because of the extraordinary circumstances. 

When a company offers credits or says the service will resume at some point in the future, this might not necessarily be breaking the terms of the contract in the eyes of your bank or credit provider. 

It’s still worth getting in touch with your bank orand asking if you’re eligible to make a claim, and to ask for advice.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act may protect you if you paid for something using a credit card, but you haven’t got what you paid for. 

Chargeback is a similar protection that can protect purchases you’ve made using a debit card.

What else can I do to get my money back?

Check the terms and conditions of your contract. They should state what the company’s responsibility is to you if the service can’t be provided. If it says you’ll get a full refund, you should get one.

You could also try arguing that you’ve reached a ‘frustration of contract.’ When a company can’t provide a clear idea of when it will be able to provide what you paid for, as in this situation, this is probably the strongest argument you can use to try and get your money back.

Have you been having trouble getting your money back for a membership or service that’s been put on hold? Or perhaps you’ve successfully managed to claim your fees back?

We’re really interested to hear your stories.

Comments

The Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943, which was enacted during a previous international crisis that caused services to be cancelled, states:

In section 1(1) “Where a contract governed by English law has become impossible of performance or been otherwise frustrated, and the parties thereto have for that reason been discharged from the further performance of the contract, the following provisions of this section shall, subject to the provisions of section two of this Act, have effect in relation thereto”; and

In section 1(2) “All sums paid or payable to any party in pursuance of the contract before the time when the parties were so discharged (in this Act referred to as “the time of discharge”) shall, in the case of sums so paid, be recoverable from him as money received by him for the use of the party by whom the sums were paid, and, in the case of sums so payable, cease to be so payable”.

Hi NFH

Thank you for your comment. I agree that in certain circumstances, parties under contracts that reserve jurisdiction to England & Wales can look to the doctrine of frustration to claim a refund of monies that have been paid under a contract, where performance of that contract becomes impossible (e.g. it is illegal), performance would be radically different from that originally envisaged, or possibly where there will be unreasonable delay in performance.

However, as a first step, the party to a contract should look to the terms and conditions of that contract to ascertain whether there is any clause that provides what will happen, should extraordinary circumstances prevent proper performance. This used to be commonly known as a ‘force majeure’ clause. If there is such a clause, it is specific enough to incorporate the covid-19 pandemic and it is not unfair to the consumer (in which case it would be void under the Consumer Rights Act 2015) then generally that clause will avoid a contract being frustrated.

(This information is provided by Which? Legal. To join call 01174 054 854 or visit Which? Legal to find out more.)

Every silver lining has a cloud in front of it!

I’d like a Silver Cloud.
I haven’t worked out James’s advice.

Elizabeth Judson says:
22 May 2020

Little is broadcast regarding the cessation of treatments, due to the covid 19 virus, for conditions endured and causing great distress, often caused by cancer, for example such as Lymphodema. All services for this debilitating disease have been stopped for the foreseeable future and, due to the ‘hands on’ nature of treatment, am advised it will be probably the last one to be re introduced. Another problem being lack of UV narrow band phototherapy treatment for skin problem again caused by cancer – chemo induced. Therefore, is it ethical to be paying the large monthly d.d. for health insurance and which no provision of service is available.

I received a letter from BUPA dated 23rd April 2020 stating “We’re committing to pass back to you any exceptional financial benefit ultimately arising as a result of COVID-19. This will be through a financial rebate or other appropriate means. When the likely impact of the COVID-19 crisis is clear, we’ll update you on how we intend to do this. We’ll commission a third-party review to make sure that what we do is fair and reasonable for everyone“.

William Douglas says:
22 May 2020

Rail cards which obviously cannot be used. Every avenue – (including Which)- I have tried gets nowhere. The rail companies do not respond. In my case it is 2 x £30 senior cards, a not insignificant £60. All unusable rail cards must mount up to tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds for rail operators. At a stroke, the appropriate rail company administration could extend the validity date by say 6 months on each card. That would cost them nothing to implement.

Using a senior rail card for just one long distance trip a year pays for it, William. The lockdown will account for about three months. Compared with the loss of fares revenue the value of unused railcards pales into insignificance for the train companies. I expect the companies you have contacted don’t really know how to respond politely to your enquiries and are very busy trying to keep the network safe.

rosemary hartland says:
30 May 2020

i paid by bankers draft to disabled holidays the holiday has been cancelled after sending to them many emails i cannot get a refund should the bank refund me

Rosemary – Unfortunately I don’t think your bank has any liability towards you. A banker’s draft is equivalent to cash and does not in any way make the bank a party to your contract.

I think you should escalate this by taking legal action to recover the money you have paid. Try Citizen’s Advice for free advice or use Which? Legal or a local solicitor and ask them to explore using the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943 to obtain a remedy..