My wife does photography and a couple booked a wedding. As a part of booking a day she requires a $100 nonrefundable booking fee. She sent the couple a contract and requested it to be signed along with the booking fee sent. The couple claimed to have signed and sent the contract but we never received it and the man paid the booking fee. Now, months later, they arent getting married but the lady wants the booking fee the man paid. They arent married nor even together now. Besides the fact that he paid, not her, are we obligated to refund it since they were told amd knew it was nonrefundable?
At the risk of sounding smug, what are they going to do if you don't refund them? Sue you? Even small claims court cases typically require more than $100 to be worth the time and effort. And what happens if they win? Answer: you will owe them $100. Unless your contract contains a provision requiring the losing party in a lawsuit to pay the prevailing party's attorney fees, calling their bluff doesn't appear to have a lot of downside.
You are also right to be concerned about paying the refund to the wrong party.
There are some practical considerations that you might want to keep in mind. If they paid by credit card, they could ask the credit card company to reverse the charge. You could convince the credit card company to unreverse it, but there's some administrative hassle involved with that. There is also the risk that all customer service businesses face these days of getting a bad review on line. Only you can determine whether these risks are worth the $100.
You certainly won't want to give the money to the bride without a release from the groom since he has the better claim to the money.
Based on what you outlined, your booking policy would probably hold up in court even without a signed agreement, but litigation is uncertain and if you received a refund request from the groom it probably isn't worth the hassle to battle over $100.
Robert Salter is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of Colorado. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Robert Salter or Harkess & Salter LLC and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.
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