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personal finance

Refund for cancelled swim/run was blown out of the water

My daughter entered the annual Hurly Burly open water swim/run event that was due to take place on 28 September in Snowdonia. The problem is the event was cancelled due to an adverse weather forecast.

My daughter has no quarrel with this decision, but the organisers have refused to refund the £129 entry fee.

They say it was made very clear during the application process that no refunds would be made in any circumstances should the event have to be cancelled, and participants had to sign up to accept this. I cannot see how a contractual term that denies any refunds if the service is not provided, can be a fair contract term. After all, bad weather in Snowdonia is not exactly uncommon. The organisers could have insured against the weather risk but chose not to. Can they refuse refunds in this way? RK, by email

In a report into the 2018 event the organiser, the Outdoor Swimming Society, says: “We can’t predict what 2019 holds, but we will be ready for whatever Wales throws at us!”

The only problem is, it wasn’t. Organised cycling, running and swimming events like this have become big business in recent years and come with large entry fees and frequently feature the no-refund clause entrants are forced to accept.

But is it fair? Kate Rew, who runs the OSS, sent a long defence of the policy which said they have spent the money whether the event runs or is cancelled at the last minute, and that all entrants are made aware of the risk which they agree to at sign-up. Her lawyers have said the terms are in accordance with the law. She said insuring the event would be prohibitively expensive for a not-for-profit company.

The OSS would have taken about £23,000 in fees for this event. To expect the participants to collectively lose that amount is harsh. David Foster, a partner at law firm Barlow Robbins, told us that OSS’s stance is within the law. Perhaps the organisers need to look again at insuring future events? If it were me I think I’d rather pay an extra £10 on top of my £129 and know I would be offered a refund or alternative date.

Others thinking of signing up to similar events need to check the cancellation policy before handing over their card details.

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