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“PayPal and Tesco refused a wedding refund when my florist went broke”

Has a company treated you unfairly? Our consumer advocate Sally Hamilton is here to help. To contact them click here

Dear Sally

In January 2020 I bought a flower and decoration package from a sponsored post I saw on Facebook from Stacey’s Flowers out of Essex. It was for my wedding, which was scheduled for January 2nd of this year.

I checked out her shop and found that she had her own market store with photos and reviews of previous weddings and was registered with Companies House. I thought it was safe to book. She requested payment of the total of £ 500 by bank transfer or PayPal. I chose PayPal for extra protection and used my credit card for additional security.

Last fall, my partner and I made the difficult decision to postpone the wedding due to Covid restrictions and will now hold it in January 2022. We were told we could postpone our package to the new date. On two other occasions I added more items to the package for which I paid an extra £ 200 – both payments were made the same way as before.

In July, Stacey’s Flowers announced that the company was going into liquidation and that the owner had appointed a bankruptcy company. This affected weddings as well as people who ordered flowers for other occasions such as funerals.

I requested a refund from PayPal because I used the business payment option for additional protection. But it rejected me because I was “out of time” as the agreement only includes purchases for 180 days, which I wasn’t aware of.

I then applied for a chargeback from my credit card provider, Tesco Bank, because I would not receive the service that I had paid for with the card. Heard a couple of weeks ago that they would refund me the £ 200 for the two later payments, but not for the first major payment that was supposedly late.

My claim was then forwarded to the Section 75 team, but after sending copies of invoices and screenshots confirming our change to the wedding date, I was confirmed that I will not be refunded the original £ 500 payment. Can you help?

– AG, London

Sally says:

Anyone who has organized a wedding knows that the booking is often made at least a year in advance and the bills are sometimes even paid so far in advance to secure certain services.

I’m in the process of planning my eldest daughter’s wedding, and large down payments have already been made for several components, including the florist. Hence, I understand the risks involved.

In any normal year, there is a chance that a florist, venue, caterer, photographer, or clothing store could go out of business and abandon couples.

But over the past 18 months, the pandemic has put many brides and grooms-to-be, like you and your partner, under additional stress as weddings have been canceled, downsized, or rearranged.

Stacey’s Flowers is one of those companies that didn’t survive the turmoil. The Basildon-based public company opted for voluntary liquidation – after just 17 months in business. In a statement to RG Insolvency, the liquidators tasked with winding up the company, owner Stacey Sargeant blamed the pandemic and her own illness for forcing the company to close.

RG Insolvency told me they could not discuss the case, which is still under investigation, or comment on the whereabouts of £ 222,485 owed to 450 customers. But the financial statements also show the company only has £ 3,600 in the bank.

When a limited liability company goes bust, ordinary consumers tend to come last, while other creditors such as commercial customers and banks come before them. It can be more fruitful to try other ways to get money back if something goes wrong, including:

  • Chargeback. This is a voluntary system offered by banks and card issuers when a retailer declines or cannot afford a refund of a card payment because they have ceased trading. The card issuer refunds them and then hunts the provider’s bank for the money. As you have learned, there are deadlines. The usual deadline for a complaint is 120 days from the date of payment. However, for purchases to be delivered in the future, such as concert tickets, flights – or wedding flowers – the limit is 540 days.
  • Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If the claim is a credit card purchase between £ 100,000 and £ 30,000, the card company will be jointly liable with the merchant if something goes wrong. There is no set time limit to make a claim, although it is unlikely to be considered if it is left for more than six years.
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