42 minutes ago
Image source, BBC/Jim Scott
Danny Currie and Rebecca Pye have been left waiting for their refund
A luxury country house hotel has been criticised after cancelling weddings and telling couples they will not be refunded until the business is sold.
Judges Hotel, near Yarm, informed Rebecca Pye and Danny Currie it could no longer fulfil their wedding which is due to take place in July.
The couple said they could be waiting months or years for a refund and “can’t afford” an alternative venue.
The hotel has not responded to the BBC, but has emailed customers an apology.
Miss Pye, 40, and Mr Currie, 45, from Stainton, near Middlesbrough, had paid more than £8,000 in instalments towards a £10,000 wedding package.
They decided to tie the knot and chose the venue last year after it was recommended to them by friends and family.
Image source, BBC/Jim Scott
The hotel informed customers their weddings had been cancelled
However, they found out it was due to close by text after a family member discovered a social media post.
“They should have informed everybody by email and follow up with a phone call, but we found out on Facebook,” Miss Pye said.
“We’ve been ringing around to get alternative venue, but it’s so much more expensive and we have been told they won’t refund us until the property is sold.”
An email seen by the BBC, confirms the venue is only prepared to refund customers once the business is sold, although no timeframe is provided.
The couple have paid about £13,000 to suppliers including florists, make-up artists, hairdressers, entertainment, and for family and friends to travel from Florida and Ireland.
Despite being insured, their policy does not cover businesses that simply decide to sell, or cease trading without going into administration.
They said they are now set to lose a significant amount of money in deposits. They also fear they will not be able to marry for some time.
Image source, Family handout
The couple were due to get married in July
Miss Pye said: “We can’t afford to go anywhere else, we need that £8,000 back from them to do anything. We won’t be able to get married, it’s awful.
“I can’t go and blow something we can’t afford, I am not going to put ourselves under any financial duress”.
According to the couple, the venue had been taking bookings up until a few days ago as they have been in contact with other brides and grooms-to-be.
“They were still taking bookings up until last week,” Mr Currie claimed.
“If there’s a deal on the table, tell us, they should have said ‘look there’s a possibility we will sell’ but they didn’t. Instead, they have given us a blank timescale”.
Miss Pye added: “There’s a lot of people sat there waiting for their refunds”.
The hotel is yet to publicly confirm it could close, but an email addressed to customers said it “completely understood” that the cancellation of weddings “will be stressful to hear” but apologised “wholeheartedly for the inconvenience” caused.
The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), a governmental department set up to protect people from unfair trading practices, said while it could not comment on individual cases, terms and conditions on refunds should be fair.
It said the law is clear on businesses which choose to cancel a contract without providing services, but keep money already paid by the consumer.
It said any terms and conditions against this are “likely to be unfair” and “unenforceable”.
“In short – the consumer would be owed their money back,” the CMA spokesperson said.
The hotel did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the BBC.