Many businesses are charging in advance for appointments to ensure against loss of income if the customer misses their appointment. Is it legal?
Yes it is!
Government guidance is that advance payments, deposits and cancellation charges should be “fair” to both the customer and the service provider.
What is fair? There is a gov.uk website – the Competition and Markets Authority which explains fair and unfair terms for businesses.
So, as a practitioner you can charge in advance for an appointment. If the customer misses the appointment or cancels at less than 24 hours it is not reasonable to expect the appointment to be filled so it is ok to keep all or part of the fee. But if you book someone else into the appointment you should refund all or part of the fee.
If you don’t charge at the point of booking you will have to chase the customer for payment. Good luck with that.
Some clinics run classes for a set period, typically 4 or 6 weeks. Customers book in advance and pay in advance. If a customer misses one of these without notice the practitioner can keep, all or part of the fee.
If the customer cancels in good time and you are able to fill the appointment you should refund all or part of that portion of the course fee.
If you as a practitioner cancel a class or appointment you should either transfer the paid fee to another appointment or give a refund. A credit is only of value if the customer can use it, eg to book in on another class.
A term saying that no refund is available in any circumstances is likely to be unfair.
All or part of the fee?
The government guidance states that you must take into account what your business is actually losing as a result of the cancellation.
Again it comes down to being fair.
You should state your policy on your website and on any written material or email you send to the customer, and inform them at the time of booking. (Which we do for you, routinely).
To find our more about how we take pre-payments for you look on the website or give us a call.