Around the globe, there is currently great concern about a further spread of the Corona virus. Whether justified or not, whether hysteria or appropriate caution, I do not want to clarify here.
But what if you already had expenses because you wanted to attend a trade show or major event that has now been canceled? Especially in the field of IT and computer games, some trade fairs and events have now been canceled in recent days.
To put it in a nutshell: In most cases, you will be stuck with the costs, whether as a visitor or exhibitor. If one has not chosen flexible rates in advance, for example by booking via the Internet, or can resort to cancellation conditions that allow rebooking of hotel rooms, in most cases, the costs should have been spent for nothing.
The only exception will be for exhibitor options that have already been paid for. Depending on the situation and the individual case, exhibitors will not have to accept a possible postponement. Fees for booths or sponsorship options, the event organizer must reimburse payments, unless there is a so-called “force majeure”. Whether the organizer can rely on the fact that the event is only being relocated, i.e. that he is still prepared to provide the service, will be a question of the individual case and the exact contracts. However, referring to an event next year will probably not be sufficient. However, a slight postponement may be reasonable.
Because of this uncertainty, it is likely that some event organizers will attempt to resolve these issues amicably.
However, all this only applies to services booked directly by the trade fair organizer.
Costs, for example, for a stand builder will usually be lost if services have already been provided here. This includes, for example, design services and especially if a specific trade fair/event was not part of the contract. In the case of other services already ordered, such as for booked personnel or for advertising materials, the details matter. For example, if advertising materials have already been printed, they will also have to be paid for. The only exception to this could be the general terms and conditions of the respective contractual partners to the extent that so-called saved expenses are to be reimbursed. So if the booth builder hasn’t built anything yet and therefore hasn’t used any materials, these payments would often be refundable. GTCs that regulate this differently could be challenged if necessary. Here, however, it depends on details and also on the question of “force majeure”.
The question of whether the trade fair organizer itself is liable for the damage, since it caused the damage by cancelling the event, is sometimes problematic. The decisive factor is whether the trade fair organizer was responsible for the cancellation. This would not be the case if the event of the fair had been prohibited by the authorities. But even otherwise, this will mostly not be the case in the current situation. Be it only because the authorities have high requirements or because the fair. or event organizer fears that visitors will generally stay away. Here, too, details matter, such as when the event should take place.
Since it can therefore be assumed that there will be numerous legal disputes here, it is advisable to check one’s own contracts with event organizers and other service providers carefully. Only then will it be possible to have clarity as to whether and how the damage can be minimized. The term “force majeure” will therefore probably keep lawyers and German courts busy in the coming months, as the exact classification will decide legal issues.
However, since such litigation can be expensive and many details are sometimes difficult to answer, discussions should first be sought with all parties. Consideration should also be given to whether you want to leave “scorched earth” with partners you may need in subsequent years.
If you don’t feel neutral enough to do the communication and review yourself, a lawyer can certainly help with that as well.