Can I force a wedding dress shop to return my non-refundable deposit? DEAN DUNHAM replies

I paid a £1,000 deposit for a wedding dress but, a few days later, I found another dress I liked more so I cancelled the order. 

The boutique says it is non refundable but confirmed it had not yet started to make the dress. How can I get it to give me my money back?

M. N., Fareham, Hants.

Dean Dunham replies: My response to your question applies to any situation where a consumer is asked to pay a deposit for goods or services to be delivered at a future date.

The starting point is to set up whether you were clearly told the deposit would be non refundable.

Frock shock: A boutique is refusing to hand back a £1,000 deposit on a recent order for a wedding dress

Frock shock: A boutique is refusing to hand back a £1,000 deposit on a recent order for a wedding dress 

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says ‘key terms’, such as a deposit being ‘non-refundable’, must be made ‘prominent’ and it is legal to have a non-refundable deposit.

If this crucial fact is not clearly spelt out or highlighted prior to contract, it will not be binding. This means you could potentially get a full refund of the deposit if you cancel your order.

Even if you were made aware that the deposit would be ‘non refundable’, this is not the end of the matter as it may not be fair for the retailer to keep the full amount.

The Consumer Rights Act provides a list of terms that ‘may’ be classed as ‘unfair’, meaning they would not be binding.

One of those is a term that permits the trader to keep money paid by the consumer if they set up to end the contract, but doesn’t supply for the consumer to acquire compensation from the trader of an equivalent amount were the trader to cancel the contract.

So, ask the retailer if it would have paid you £1,000 if it had cancelled on you (that is £1,000 in addition to receiving your deposit back). 

If the answer is no, and I suspect it will be, then this is potentially an ‘unfair’ clause, meaning you won’t have to forfeit your deposit.

Another term the Consumer Rights Act says may be ‘unfair’ is a term where the consumer decides not to infer or perform the contract and the consumer must pay the trader a disproportionately high sum in compensation or for services which have not been supplied.

This will apply to many situations where a deposit is said to be non refundable. The question is, does the amount of the deposit cover the loss the retailer/trader suffered as a result of the consumer cancelling the order? 

In your case the retailer hadn’t even started making the dress and the order had only been placed a few days prior to the cancellation. 

In these circumstances, it is difficult to believe that the retailer would have been £1,000 out of pocket, meaning you will be entitled to most of the deposit back. 

If it is reluctant to pay, you can make a chargeback claim if you paid by credit or debit card, or otherwise take the retailer to the small claims court.

Should I take my sister to court over a loan? 

I loaned my sister money and she now refuses to pay me back because she claims it was a gift, not a loan. Can I take her to court?

B. H., Melksham, Wiltshire.

Dean Dunham replies: I’m sorry to say that there is a presumption in English law that there are no ‘legal relations’ between family members.

In this case, it means the courts would assume this money was indeed a gift unless you could verify otherwise.

When you give money to a relative it is always vitally important that you have something in writing that spells out clearly the terms under which you are lending, rather than gifting the money.

It doesn’t need to be a lawyer-drafted loan agreement — it can simply be a note scribbled on the back of a napkin, so long as it clearly records that both parties agree that the specified amount handed over is a loan that must be repaid.

It’s also advisable to record when the loan will be repaid and for both parties to supply their signature, signifying their agreement to the terms.

  • Write to Dean Dunham, Money Mail, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB or email d.dunham@dailymail.co.uk. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given. 


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