Velo Birmingham refunds
22nd March 2020
Velo Birmingham have told their customers that they are cancelling the 2020 event but keeping all the money. No alternative has been offered.
The cycle sportive in Britain's second city was due to take place on 21st June 2020, with 18,000 riders.
Velo Birmingham's statement refers to government advice against mass gatherings, and continues "...even if it is possible that the situation may have improved by June 21st (which seems far from certain), working restrictions and self-isolation recommendations mean that we are simply unable to complete the work necessary in the next few weeks to ensure that the event could proceed safely..."
Postponement to a later day is "...simply not going to be possible."
What happens to your entry fee? They want to keep it. They say their insurance doesn't cover the COVID-19 outbreak, and they have already committed to pay some expenses of the event. "Put plainly, refunding participant entry fees now is not something our business could absorb."
Velo Birmingham claim that their Terms & Conditions allow them to withhold refunds in these circumstances, but as they don't provide any detail it's difficult to assess whether or not they are correct.
Terms & Conditions
These are Velo Birmingham's Terms & Conditions. My guess is that they are attempting to rely on their Force Majeure clause, paragraph 9.2.
The list of events that might trigger the clause is "without limitation". It does not specifically include a pandemic, but does specifically include withdrawal of consent of a local authority; we don't know if that has happened.
I suggest Force Majeure could apply if they are forced to cancel due to circumstances beyond their reasonable control. If this is a decision they have taken because they are anticipating that it will be difficult to hold the event, it would not apply.
Unsurprisingly, many customers who have paid Velo Birmingham money, and who are now told they will get nothing for it, are unhappy.
On Twitter, Nick Bury summed up the mood.
"No refund isn't good enough, I know you'll have costs that can't be recovered but that wouldn't be the full cost of the event. Partial refunds should be worked out. You were selling tickets until just the other day! I'll not be signing up again after this if you run away from it."
In my opinion, there's no point in hoping that Velo Birmingham will have a change of heart and try to do the decent thing - agree a fair compromise with the people they've taken money from. They have made it quite clear it's the money that matters to them, not their customers or doing what's right. They won't be offering anything.
What can people do to get their money back?
If you paid with a credit card, you might be able to get your money back under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 - but only if your entry cost £100 or more. A standard entry was £83.74 including admin fees, but there more expensive entries were on offer.
If you paid with a debit card, there's some protection via the chargeback scheme - a voluntary scheme under Visa, Mastercard and Amex's rules. In this case, the £100 limit doesn't apply.
MoneySavingExpert says, "Chargeback is a little-known scheme which gives you a chance of getting your money back from your bank if you bought faulty goods, a service wasn't provided, or the company you bought something from went bust and your goods weren't delivered." The mechanics of it are that your bank asks the supplier's bank (not the supplier) to refund the money.
There's a 120-day time limit for making a claim, but here I believe it would begin not from the date of payment, but from the date of Velo Birmingham's email saying they were not running the event but keeping all the money. This Chargeback web page supports my position on the start of the 120 day period - where the dispute is a service not provided, the time limit is "120 calendar days from the date the cardholder was told that the merchandise or services won't be provided."