Consumer rights

Mike Dailly Chronicle: How the Grinch Stole Our Lovely Christmas Dinner!

On the evening of Thursday, December 9, Public Health Scotland (PHS) issued a press release urging people to postpone their Christmas holidays.

No data or empirical analysis has been published to substantiate this advice or explain why it was always safe to attend large-scale music concerts or football matches with up to 50,000 fans.

Dr Nick Phin of PHS said: “We still need to know more about the severity of the disease caused by Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines, but there are important things we can do to protect ourselves and our families. now. To help minimize the spread of Covid-19, and Omicron in particular, I strongly urge people to postpone their Christmas holidays to another time. ”

Later that evening, Leon Thompson, UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, said the PHS announcement had immediate effect: “Within minutes of publishing their statement, companies were receiving cancellations, leaving Christmas and Hogmanay in tatters.

“Businesses take up to a third of their annual turnover at this time of year.”

The following afternoon, the Prime Minister endorsed the PHS statement during his televised Covid briefing and asked workplaces to “postpone any planned festive gathering”.

She warned of the risk posed by the new Omicron variant and explained that she was lobbying the UK government for financial support for companies.

I do not dispute this public health message – although the contradictions between what are now safe social activities and what do not appear arbitrary and counterintuitive – rather my difficulty lies in carrying out this message and policy. .

In the real world, people book lunches or Christmas parties at the office weeks or even months in advance.

Many sites will have a no-refund policy or contract that only allows changes within a short period of time from the date of booking.

Everyone knows that, right? Unless you’re the Grinch living in solitude outside of Whoville. So why tell everyone to reschedule their office Christmas party when so many businesses would just say ‘no we can’t do that, sorry’.

I can provide an example. The Govan Law Center (GLC) had booked a hotel for last Friday with nearly 30 staff in attendance.

By early last week, reservations of 120 seats for the hotel’s evening had dropped to around 50, and many GLC staff were also keen to retire, which would have left the venue teetering with a few dozen. guests, if applicable.

Colleagues had a number of reasons for not being able to attend our Christmas party in light of the Scottish Government’s message. Fear of transmitting the Covid to elderly or frail people, fear for their own health and safety, or concerns about vulnerable members of their household with underlying health problems.

We respectfully requested the hotel to allow us to postpone our Christmas party to a safer New Years date.

They suggested changing the date from Friday to the weekend – which was more than ridiculous. We urged them to get a written response to our request and so far they have refused to provide a written explanation. Suffice to say that we will not be using the hotel anytime soon.

All of this could have been avoided of course. The Scottish government could have used its emergency Covid-19 legal powers to allow consumers in Scotland to reschedule hotel reservations or request a refund in light of its advice on the threat of the Omicron variant to public health .

He’s done it in a number of different ways over the past 21 months.

For example, most students in university or college dorms have contracts for the entire school year that cannot be canceled once you move into a dormitory. Last year, the Scottish Parliament passed a legal rule that allowed students to opt out of leases for reasons related to Covid-19 advice.

How many charities and small and medium-sized businesses across the country have paid for Christmas parties and have now lost all of their money? Ironically, the hospitality industry will receive £ 66million from the Scottish government to offset Christmas holiday cancellations as part of a £ 100million fund.

A portion of this fund should be made available to consumers who have been denied a deferral date or refund. The alternative is to claim a refund using the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – but how many will? There is of course no guarantee of success.

This burach should have and could have been avoided by the use of the legal powers of the Scottish government Covid-19 in the execution of public health advice on Omicron.

The Grinch stole our collective Christmas dinners at the office and the party is sadly over.