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To cancel or postpone, that is the question.

COVID -19 has resulted in many scheduled events such as tours, theatre or concert events failing to take place. The Australian Consumer Law provides that a supplier of services guarantees that services will be supplied within a “reasonable time”.   Many businesses are offering their customers a new date for the supply of the services instead of a refund.   Blue Bella Pty Ltd t/as Quantum Change Seminars v Gibson [2016] NSWCATAP 13 (18 January 2016) considered this issue.  In that case, a tour which was planned to depart in December 2014 was postponed until December 2015. The first issue to consider was  what the contract said.  In this case, whilst the tour company reserved the right to change “the speakers, event hours, date and venue” there was no express power given in the contract to postpone the event for a long duration.   There was a right to cancel the event and provide a refund to the customer.  So in this particular instance, postponement was not an option.  However, many contracts, despite what consumers may think, do not in fact guarantee that the event or tour will take place on the dates selected and allow for postponement.  So, the question as to whether the services can be postponed depends upon what is meant by a “reasonable time”.  Whilst not relevant to the actual decision, in the Blue Bella case,  12 months was considered unreasonable.  In these COVID-19 times, however, 12 months may be considered reasonable.  It is important to check the contract and negotiate.
Mullane and  Lindsay is continuing to work and provide clients with solutions through these uncertain times.

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