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Legal advice: golden wedding anniversary tarnished

Customers of a venue turned to Which? Legal when they were refused a full refund for a booking affected by coronavirus restrictions. Here’s how we helped.

In April 2019, Which? member Rosaleen and her husband booked accommodation at an Essex holiday home to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary with their family.

The trip was meant to take place in May 2020, but due to government restrictions it couldn’t go ahead.

The venue emailed Rosaleen offering to transfer the booking to another date, but postponing the stay wasn’t suitable because it was linked to a specific event and rescheduling would depend on whether everyone in the large party was available.

Frustrated contracts

Rosaleen asked for a full refund, but the venue refused on the grounds that it had been forced to cancel the booking. Rosaleen pointed to guidance from the Competitions and Markets Authority confirming that in these circumstances a full refund should be given. The venue refused, instead offering a 60% refund and 40% credit note.

Due to external circumstances, Rosaleen’s contract had become ‘frustrated’, and as there was no term within the contract setting out what would happen in this scenario, a refund was due as per Section 1 of the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943.

We advised Rosaleen to commence court action to recover her money. Shortly before the final hearing, the venue agreed to pay the claim in full.

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There doesn’t seem to be much more to said in this case. The law of frustrated contracts has worked and the consumer has received a full repayment.

Perhaps Which? Legal might like to look at a case reported in The Guardian recently where the law of frustrated contracts could be applicable. Before accepting any replacement flight bookings an airline is demanding repayment of any chargeback claimed for flights that the passengers could not make due to coronavirus directions but which the airline had not officially cancelled. Em has outlined the position in a comment on 13 October 2021 and subsequent comments discuss the issues involved. See –