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What guidance has the CMA issued about how it expects businesses to behave in response to the global pandemic?

On 30th April 2020, the CMA issued a guidance note setting out its views about how the law operates in relation to refunds.

Where a contract is not performed as agreed, the CMA considers that in most cases, consumer protection law will generally allow consumers to obtain a refund.

This includes the following situations:

  • Where a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services
  • Where no service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by Government public health measures
  • A consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services.

In the CMA’s view, this will usually apply even where the consumer has paid what the business says is a non-refundable deposit or advance payment.

This positon reflects the CMA’s previous guidance which they had issued in relation to the requirement of fairness in consumer contracts under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which was that a clause in a contract that gives a blanket entitlement to a trader to cancel a contract and retain deposits paid is likely to be unfair, and therefore unenforceable – it would be unfair to a consumer to lose their deposit if the contract is terminated without any fault on their part, and if they had received no benefit for the payments made.

The CMA’s latest guidance therefore confirms their view that the Covid-19 outbreak does not change the basic rights of the consumer, and that they should not have to pay for goods or services that they do not receive.