Couples and vendors fight over deposits for weddings cancelled due to Covid-19

This article is more than 12 months old

When the coronavirus began to spread across the island in February, Ms Paige Tuieng and her husband made the difficult decision to call off their May wedding.

After all, they had a small solemnisation ceremony last year and saw no point in postponing the larger celebration to an indeterminate date, Ms Tuieng told The Straits Times.

Six months on, the couple have been able to recover only about half of the $11,000 to $12,000 in deposits paid to various wedding vendors.

Compounding their woes is the fact that Ms Tuieng, 31, and her husband are also stretched as they work in two of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic - events and aviation.

The ongoing crisis has upended a number of planned events for many, leading to disputes between vendors that point to no-refund policies, while consumers argue that restrictions make it impossible to proceed with their plans.

The Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act was passed in April, allowing parties to events, tourism and other contracts to suspend their obligations for six months.

This means that couples at risk of forfeiting a deposit placed with a wedding venue, for example, can apply for an assessor appointed by the Ministry of Law to prevent as such if the event was to be held on or after Feb 1, and booked before March 25.

Wedding vendors told The Straits Times they are exercising flexibility for existing bookings but noted that they also have costs to bear.

In response to queries, the Ministry of Law said assessors consider the positions of both contracting parties before making a determination.

"The perception among some couples that they are entitled to a full refund is incorrect. The Act will help them to avoid losing all of their deposit, but the determinations must be fair to the vendor too," a spokesman said.

Ms Tuieng, who resorted to an assessor three times after being unable to reach an agreement with vendors, said the process helped the couple recover some money.

But the entire experience has been disappointing, she said.

"I have always emphasised that I am not asking for a 100 per cent refund, and it doesn't have to be returned immediately. But they all ask for 50 per cent and can't justify it."