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Getting married? Your rights and responsibilities

It is not easy to plan the perfect wedding. Organising a wedding requires booking several services and products that involve the payment of deposits, signing of contracts and terms and conditions to read and understand. If booking problems are not dealt with in the right way, this may result in a waste of money and unnecessary hassle for the couple.

To ensure they get the best possible deals, the couple needs to shop around. The market offers a vast choice and there is fierce competition in every type of wedding service. However, getting a good deal is not only about price.

Negotiating terms and conditions of the sales agreement is also fundamental. A sales contract sets out the legal responsibilities of both trader and consumer. Hence, if there are any terms the couple is not comfortable with, these should be discussed with the trader before the sales agreement is finalised.

Furthermore, any conditions agreed upon with the trader should be clearly written on the contract of sale.

Couples should only agree to pay a deposit after all aspects of the sale have been thoroughly discussed and agreed upon. It is also important to ensure that the amount of deposit paid is written on the contract of sale. On the same contract there should also be details of the service or product ordered and information on how the rest of the payment is going to be made.

Paying a deposit is a binding commitment to purchasing a particular product or service. If eventually the couple change their mind or find a better deal, they should be aware that they are legally bound to honour the sales agreement. Hence, they do not only risk losing the deposit paid but the trader may sue them for the rest of the payment.

Paying a deposit is a binding commitment to purchasing a particular product or service

The deposit may only be recuperated if the terms and conditions of the sales contract allows for such a possibility. In actual fact, most contracts allow the trader to keep the deposit or part of it in case of cancellation. However, when an order or booking is cancelled close to the wedding date, the couple is usually obliged to pay the full balance.

Refunds can only be legally claimed if it is the trader who fails to honour the sale agreement. Thus it is crucial that the contract of sale includes a detailed description of the product or service ordered. For instance, if the couple book souvenirs, they should ensure that they have a written description of the souvenirs booked and ideally also a picture of them. The delivery date should also be stipulated on the sales contract. It is advisable to avoid last-minute deliveries in case some problems crop up with the shipping or the wrong item is delivered.

If the delivery date is not honoured by the supplier, or the product supplied is not as agreed in the contract of sale, consumers have the legal right to cancel the order and claim back any deposits or money paid.

It is the couple’s responsibility to keep the evidence of purchases made and deposits paid. This could be in the form of a fiscal receipt or any other document that proves what product or service was purchased, from where and when it was purchased. Should there be a problem with the product or service, the proof of purchase is required to be eligible for redress.

Couples are encouraged to be aware of these rights and responsibilities to prevent problems that may cause them stress and financial loss. They should also remember that in case of dispute with a supplier, they may contact the Office for Consumer Affairs within the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority for information and advice.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

odette.vella@mccaa.org.mt

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