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Event organisers: ACCC advises on event cancellation obligations

The ACCC has issued advice for consumers and businesses on their rights and obligations if events are cancelled due to COVID-19, or if people wish to cancel their plans to attend the event.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Australian Government has ordered that all non-essential gatherings be suspended for an initial four weeks from 23 March 2020. All magazine publishers who organise events need to be aware of their obligations regarding event cancellations.

If events are cancelled, the ACCC said that it expects refunds or other remedy such as a credit note or voucher will be offered in most circumstances. 

However, if the event is cancelled due to government restrictions, consumer rights under the consumer guarantees may be impacted. In these situations consumers may be entitled to a refund under the terms and conditions of their ticket. 

“Given the exceptional circumstances, the ACCC encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly and compassionately,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. 

“We welcome the decisions by many businesses who are already offering refunds to all ticket holders, and expect other event and travel businesses to also offer remedies to all affected consumers when events or travel services are cancelled.”

If a consumer chooses not to attend an event that is still going ahead or travel domestically due to coronavirus concerns, this may be treated as a ‘change of mind’. 

The same applies to hotel room bookings. Consumers’ rights to refunds in these circumstances will depend on the terms and conditions and any cancellation policy adopted by the business.

“Failure by any business to honour its cancellations or refunds policy may constitute misleading conduct under the Australian Consumer Law,” said Sims. 

The Australian Government has announced a range of measures to help small and medium-businesses cope with the financial impact of COVID-19. More information on these measures can be found here.

More information about your obligations regarding event cancellations can be found here.

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