by Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo
Parties who made payments for events that were canceled or scaled down prior to community quarantine have the right to demand a refund, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
This is according to Memorandum Circular 20-30, issued on June 2 by DTI, which contains guidelines on the refund of event payments. The agency explained these guidelines further in a consumer care webinar held on July 2.
According to the agency, events are defined either as personal or business. Personal events include birthdays, christenings, weddings, anniversaries, thanksgiving, family reunions, and similar events. On the other hand, business events include conferences, seminars, workshops, team buildings, planning sessions, and similar events, such as forums, that are paid for by a company.
Those who have organized such an event are entitled to a refund if they made full or partial payment prior to any level of community quarantine (CQ). They can also be refunded if the event that they organized was supposed to be held during the CQ or if it had to be canceled or scaled-down — meaning the number of guests had to be reduced — because of social distancing directives.
However, a person isn’t entitled to a refund if the payment was made after imposition of CQ or if their contract with the venue owner states that any pre-payment made will be forfeited in case of a fortuitous event.
Furthermore, a venue owner is required to return the money spent on event expenses if these were incurred after the CQ was applied. However, only a portion has to be returned if the event was scaled-down in compliance with social distancing directions or if “valid and verifiable expenses” were incurred in preparation for the event prior to the imposition of CQ.
To kickstart the refunding process, parties covered by the stipulations may follow these steps:
1. Notify the venue owner or representative of your decision to cancel or scale down the event.
2. Wait within five days for the venue owner or representative to acknowledge receipt of your request. They should indicate the options available together with how they will execute each option.
The options are as follows:
|Canceled events||Scaled-down events|
|Consume the amount paid at a later date within one year from the lifting of the government-imposed restrictions.|
|Get the net of the amount paid after deducting relevant actual expenses incurred before the imposition of restrictions. Proof must be presented by the venue owner or representative.||Get a refund in such amount proportionate to the agreed scaled-down event or function after deducting relevant actual expenses incurred before the imposition of restrictions. Proof must be presented by the venue owner or representative.|
|Get back the full amount regardless of expenses incurred after the imposition of restrictions.||Get a refund in such amount proportionate to the agreed scaled-down event or function regardless of expenses incurred after the imposition of restriction.|
3. Notify the venue owner or representative of your option.
4. Wait within five days for the venue owner or representative for them to acknowledge receipt of your notification and your chosen option.
5. Send your acknowledgment of the venue owner or representative’s receipt.
6. If both parties come to an understanding, then the refunds should be implemented within the period and terms that were agreed upon. If there are no terms indicated, the refunds should be made within 30 days from your acknowledgment indicated in step 5.
7. If both parties fail to settle, request the DTI-Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) or the concerned DTI provincial office, via written letter, to direct both parties to go through an alternative dispute resolution proceeding.
8. Pending receipt of notice from the DTI, the requesting party should continuously update the DTI-FTEB or DTI provincial office of any relevant development. Otherwise, the concerned DTI office will presume that both parties have been able to settle.
While these guidelines are the recommended standard, the DTI stated that they will not stop any person who wishes to return the full paid amount without deduction of relevant actual costs or make a full or partial refund on pre-payment received. This is known as an act of goodwill.
“In the circular, we have requests for the supplier because we’re all affected. That’s where we hope goodwill will come in,” said Assistant Secretary Ann Claire C. Cabochan of DTI’s Consumer Protection Group, in Filipino. “If they want to be patronized because… they don’t look at the bottomline figures but rather at their relationships with their client, then they will hopefully provide the options to the consumer.”