Cancelled events leave contributors out of pocket and in the dark as they struggle to reclaim funds

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a number of major events cancelled, including the Edinburgh Fringe festival, Glastonbury music festival and the Wimbledon tennis tournament.   

But a number of smaller events have also had to postpone and it leaves a number of questions marks if and how exhibitors will be refunded.

For example, those who had booked to have a stand at the annual London Book Fair face losing money after the event was cancelled.

Independent booksellers have been left wondering if they will get their money back after the event, due to be held in March, was cancelled.

Over: Many events have had to be cancelled in the light of wake of the coronavirus pandemic

One bookseller, Simon Hepden from Greenvale Books in South East London, said he has so far only been offered a 10 per cent ‘goodwill’ refund from Freeman Exhibitions, who organised his power supply and stand furniture for the event.

He paid £360 to Freeman, claiming that as an exhibitor, they are the only company you can use for power supply.

Simon said: ‘Freeman have contacted us to say that they will offer a 10 per cent goodwill refund and it claims the other 90 per cent has already been spent.’

Reed Exhibitions, who Simon has paid £9,500 to attend the event, has not yet sent him any indication of what sort of refund, if any, he can expect from them.

This is despite the event being cancelled more than a month ago.  

He said: ‘Reed Exhibitions, the event organisers, have been dragging their feet on the issue of a refund for the stand and will not give any indication of what they will do. As a small one man company, I am facing a huge loss from this event.’

Simon is concerned that Reed will decide to take the same course of action as Freeman and only offer a small refund.

This is Money contacted Freeman for comment.

London Book Fair had to cancel its event due to coronavirus but hasn't yet issued refunds

London Book Fair had to cancel its event due to coronavirus but hasn’t yet issued refunds 

A spokesperson for the London Book Fair and Reed said: ‘We announced on March 4 the cancellation of The London Book Fair 2020 following the escalation of coronavirus in Europe.

‘The London Book Fair team is currently reviewing its position with the venue and other suppliers and partners, as well as with its exhibitors, and we would like to thank our exhibitors, IRC table-holders and visitors for their patience over the coming weeks as we work our way through the various complex issues arising from this cancellation.

‘We will make further announcements on The London Book Fair website and in communications with our exhibitors individually as soon as we are able.’ 

It reiterated that it would be contacting exhibitors directly and wouldn’t be commenting on refund amounts.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses, small and large have been affected by the current state of affairs with most losing money due to the loss of custom.

This means that many who organised events will not be able to pay out refunds to those attending or exhibiting.

Simon has been trying to get a refund from London Book Fair after it was cancelled (stock image)

Simon has been trying to get a refund from London Book Fair after it was cancelled (stock image)

Another example of event that has had to be cancelled is Hacking with Swift Live 2020, which had to take its scheduled July dates online to video sessions instead of in person talks.

However, the event creator said that when he went to cancel with Apex Hotels, where the event was due to take place, he was told they would be keeping the deposit and also want Hacking with Swift to pay £3,000 more to cancel, despite giving four months’ notice and being a charity event.

This is Money contacted Apex Hotels for comment.  

Mike Cherry, the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘We’ve seen all in-person events and conferences being cancelled due to the outbreak of coronavirus, both in the UK and overseas. 

‘FSB members due to exhibit and win business were one of the first groups affected.

‘When faced with these circumstances, we hope providers and businesses high up the food chain show flexibility to the smaller businesses who will now miss out on the chance to exhibit their product, either by looking at innovative online approaches to virtual events, refunds, and/or providing help for future iterations of the event after coronavirus is over.’

What are your rights as an exhibitor? 

Mark Woloshak, Slater and Gordon dispute resolution lawyer, said: ‘Initially the exhibitor should look at the terms of his agreement with the event organiser. 

‘The terms may include something that covers cancellations caused by reasons outside either party’s control.

‘Unless the terms of the agreement provide otherwise, the reader should be entitled to a refund from the event organiser, as the organiser will not be performing their side of the contract by operating the Book Fair.

‘They should also note that if the organiser was paid by credit card, the Consumer Credit Act provides that any claim against the organiser also lies against the credit card company. 

‘This may be of use if the cancellation of the event places the organiser into financial difficulties.’

Those who have been left without a full refund, or even a refund at all, are advised to take a look at the contract they signed for an event first. 

Here it should state what you are entitled to, should an event be cancelled. It should also have all terms and conditions written out 

If you are entitled to a refund but a company is refusing to give it, seek legal advice.  

Mike Cherry added: ‘When agreeing to attend an exhibition, it’s important for small businesses to check the terms and conditions of their contract before signing anything, to ensure they don’t get left high and dry.’ 

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