ACT News

Canberra bride denied refund over wedding dress wait

A woman who launched legal action against a Fyshwick bridal store after her wedding dress failed to arrive in time for her planned nuptials has lost a bid to get her money back.

Olivia Churchill took the then-owner of Hills in Hollywood, Eileen Arnold, to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal after a dispute over the contract she signed  with the store when she bought her wedding gown.

Dozens of brides were left in the lurch when the store closed temporarily, in October last year, amid claims it was struggling to pay wedding dress suppliers.

The store was bought by Hills in Hollywood chief executive Chris Freeburn soon after and has reopened.

Ms Churchill went shopping for a dress with her mother at the store in mid-December 2013, for  her wedding on March 22, 2014,   court documents showed. 

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She paid cash for the $2250 gown, as well as an extra $150, which was described as a "10-week rush fee" because the wedding date was imminent, court documents showed. 

The invoice noted Ms Churchill's wedding date was in late March and delivery could take up to 10 weeks, with the dress set to arrive in late February.

A clause in the contract for the dress spelled out Ms Churchill could not exchange or refund the dress once it had been paid for.

The contract also said the bride could ask Hills in Hollywood staff to provide a similar dress at no extra cost if the ordered gown did not arrive in time.

The business didn't accept any liability, damage claims or cost claims for delays outside of its control, the contract said.

Ms Churchill phoned the store mid-February to see if the dress had been delivered and was told it should get to the store in the next week and staff would phone her when it arrived. 

When the dress didn't arrive, Ms Churchill phoned the store repeatedly and the gown's United States-based supplier, International Gowns, to learn when it would be delivered.

She bought another wedding dress from a different store but did not tell Hills in Hollywood staff and asked that they refund $2400, since her dress hadn't arrived within the time specified.

Ms Churchill wore the second dress she bought on her wedding day, which ended up being delayed for personal reasons. 

She took Ms Arnold to ACAT in a bid to get her $2400 back and the matter was heard in October last year.

Email correspondence showed International Gowns staff recommended Hills in Hollywood staff tell brides their dress would arrive one month after the expected delivery date to prevent disappointment. 

It also said it didn't recommend brides place orders less than two months before their wedding. 

In a judgment published on Friday, ACAT senior member Allan Anforth dismissed Ms Churchill's application.

Mr Anforth said the dress arrived on March 5, which was only a few days after the store said it would be delivered on February 28. 

He said it appeared Ms Churchill bought the second dress in late February because she was anxious, and "her anxiety levels were such that she did not want take a risk that the ordered dress may not turn up in time".

"Whilst this is understandable, it does not follow that personal anxiety forms a basis for repudiating the contract," he said.

Ms Churchill should have gone voiced her concerns about the delay to shop staff and asked them to provide another dress, Mr Anforth said.

He ordered Ms Arnold to follow through on her offer to repay Ms Churchill the $150 early-delivery fee.

The dress, which remained at the store, legally belonged to Ms Churchill and was available for her to pick up, Mr Anforth said.

Each party was ordered to pay its own legal costs. 

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