Relief period for event and tourism contracts extended by one month under Covid-19 law

The relief period for such contracts was previously scheduled to end on Dec 31, but the deadline has been extended to Jan 31.
The relief period for such contracts was previously scheduled to end on Dec 31, but the deadline has been extended to Jan 31.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Parties to event- and tourism-related contracts who are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations owing to Covid-19 will continue to get temporary relief from legal and enforcement action for an additional month.

The relief period for such contracts was previously scheduled to end on Thursday (Dec 31), but the deadline has been extended to Jan 31.

In a statement on Thursday, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said the relief period for these contracts under the Covid-19 Temporary Measures Act will be extended to enable both individuals and businesses to re-assess the Covid-19 situation and re-evaluate their events or tours in light of phase three of Singapore's reopening, which began on Monday.

"With phase three, there will be more scope to make alternative arrangements and adjustments to the original contract terms," said the ministry.

"For example, parties to a contract for a large wedding may agree to holding the event on the contracted date but at a smaller scale at an appropriately reduced price. This would be a fair result."

MinLaw strongly encouraged parties to negotiate the matter if the contracted event cannot proceed at all due to Covid-19. It added that parties should apply for relief only if they are unable to reach an agreement.

Notifications for relief for event- and tourism-related contracts must be served by the last day of the relief period, Jan 31, at the latest.

Under the Act, one party can serve a notification for relief on the other. Once this is done, deposits paid for events or tours cannot be automatically forfeited, and cancellation fees will be payable only if an assessor determines that such fees are just and fair.

Assessors are appointed by MinLaw to a Panel of Assessors for Covid-19 Temporary Relief to decide whether the relief under the Act applies to a given case. They seek to achieve an outcome that is just and equitable under the circumstances of each case.

The ministry said that even when a notification for relief is served, discussions and negotiations between the parties should continue.

It said: "The intention is to prevent any such forfeiture or cancellation charge from happening, so that parties may focus on discussion, understanding each other's positions and trying to reach a mutually agreeable compromise on the conduct of the event or tour."

If no agreement can be reached, either party can apply for an assessor's determination up to two months after the end of the relief period, by March 31 at the latest.

In some cases, assessors may require parties to attend mediation or explain why they cannot make alternative arrangements such as rescheduling the event or holding it on a smaller scale.

The relief period for other contracts remains unchanged.

Relief for hire-purchase, conditional sales and rental agreements for commercial equipment or commercial vehicles will end on Jan 31 as previously announced.

For option to purchase and sale and purchase agreements with developers, as well as construction contracts or supply contracts, the relief period will end on March 31.

Mrs Cheryl Tan, founder of The Wedding Concepteur wedding planning firm, said the extended deadline will give business owners like her more time to find an ideal solution for their clients.

Couples often book as early as a year and a half in advance, and her firm is flexible in meeting requests, like letting them tentatively book more than one date or postponing the wedding to the following year.

“Nobody expects or wants this to happen to their wedding. It is a substantial financial loss to us, but planning a wedding should be a joyous occasion. Being understanding and accommodating is the least we can do to help our clients.”

Mr Leonard Teoh, chairman of the Singapore Wedding Association, said the extension is helpful because businesses require time and energy to innovate their business models to ensure "survivability and longevity in these new times".

"The extension can prevent businesses and consumers from going into costly long-drawn legal proceedings."

With the current 100-guest capacity limit at weddings, many couples prefer to host a half-day event instead of a full-day wedding. 

Mr Teoh added that one of the common issues wedding planners face is in explaining to couples that a half-day wedding event can still cost as much as 70 to 80 per cent of a full-day event. 

"The issues arise when couples cancel the packages or find it difficult to accept that a half-day event does not cost proportionately less."