The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has written to over 100 wedding and events venues warning them to ‘play fair’ and drop the ‘unreasonable’ charges.
The watchdog said businesses were receiving ‘double compensation’ by taking more money from consumers than the losses they suffer as a result of events being called off.
The CMA said it was working with other consumer protection groups to assess the lawfulness of advance payment and cancellation terms in business to consumer contracts.
They found that non-refundable deposits, advance payments and sliding scales of cancellation charges could all be considered ‘unfair’ to consumers.
Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: “Getting married should be one of the happiest and most exciting days of a couple’s life, but sadly it doesn’t always go to plan.
“If a wedding has to be cancelled or plans have to be changed, couples could face losing out on considerable amounts of money after putting hefty deposits down to secure their dream venue or location.”
The CMA said it had not opened a formal investigation in to the terms but was advising businesses to revise their contract terms to ensure they remain lawful.
Unfair terms are not legally binding even when a contract is signed and can be challenged by consumers through the courts.
The CMA has produced an at-a-glance guide for businesses to ensure advance payment and cancellation terms are in line with the law.
Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, consumer, said: “Businesses need to treat their customers fairly and should not require unjustifiable, non-refundable deposits or impose unreasonable cancellation charges, which could mean customers lose a significant amount of money if they change their mind about the venue or have to call off the event.”