Frequently Asked Questions
(B) Qualification Criteria
(C) The Mediators
(D) The Mediation Process
1. Why should I agree to mediation?
The Heightened Alert imposed a number of restrictions to manage the risks of COVID-19 transmission through large gatherings. As a result of these restrictions, some wedding solemnisations and receptions during the affected period could not proceed on the scale or in the exact manner that couples and vendors had planned. Adjustments to the wedding plans had to be made to comply with the restrictions.
This means that some wedding contracts could not be carried out in accordance with the terms and conditions that the parties had agreed to. For example, wedding receptions were not allowed from 16 May 2021 to 11 July 2021.
In such a case, it is not always clear what the contractual position of the parties would be. Even if the contract provided for a cancellation fee, it is not clear cut that the event was cancelled since the event could not proceed due to the restrictions even if the couple wanted to. Moreover, the restrictions applied equally to the vendors, such that the vendor could not have put up the reception that that it had agreed to under the contract.
(Note: Affected parties should seek independent legal advice on their contract, if necessary. Their legal position will depend on the facts of their individual case.)
Claims for refunds of deposits or attempts to impose cancellation fees are therefore not clear cut and can lead to time-consuming disputes. In most cases, parties are more interested in moving on – the couples prefer to carry on with their marriage if possible, and wedding vendors (many of whom have already suffered a drop in revenue due to the pandemic) hope to carry out the contract without suffering further financial losses that might threaten the sustainability of their business and the livelihoods of their employees.
If the matter is not resolved, parties would have to carry out dispute resolution in accordance with their contract. In many instances, this means making a claim in court. This will take time, effort and money, all of which could be avoided through negotiation and settlement.
In many cases, parties may be unable to reach an agreement as the matter is an emotional one for them.
Mediation helps by introducing an independent third party who assists parties to consider their positions objectively, and to find common ground. Mediators help parties to consider different ways of compromise to fit the parties’ situation. Unlike litigation, there is no “winning” or “losing” party. The outcome is one which is mutually acceptable to all parties.
Finally, mediation is faster and cheaper than litigation in court. Additionally, the entire process and the outcome are confidential.
MinLaw therefore urges parties affected by COVID-19 to consider mediation to resolve their outstanding issues.
2. Who does the MinLaw COVID-19 (Wedding) Mediation Programme (“MCMP”) apply to?
- The MCMP applies to:
- Contracts related to a wedding event – E.g. Contract with hotel for a wedding banquet, contract for wedding catering services, contract for wedding photography services or make-up services, or, contract for bridal gown.
- Where the wedding event was scheduled to be held on a date on or after 8 May 2021.
- Interested parties must submit a Request for Mediation by 31 December 2021. Please refer to “Steps in the Mediation Process” to find out how to apply for mediation.
3. Does the MCMP apply to contracts relating to non-wedding events?
- No. The MCMP only applies to wedding contracts.
- If your contract is for a non-wedding event, we encourage you to continue negotiating with your counterparty, to come to a mutually acceptable solution. If you believe that a mediator would be helpful in facilitating a solution, you may wish to consider mediation under the Law Society Mediation Scheme, or mediation at the Singapore Mediation Centre.
4. How would mediation affect any previous agreements that were reached?
- If both parties agree to the mediation and reach a new settlement agreement at the mediation, the new settlement agreement will override the previous agreement.
- If the parties do not agree to mediation, or if no new settlement is reached during the mediation, the previous agreement will still stand.
5. I have an Assessor’s determination, but disagree with it. Can I mediate the dispute under the MCMP?
A determination made by an Assessor under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act is binding on parties.
However, if both parties are agreeable, parties are not precluded from reaching a further settlement, whether through direct negotiation or mediation.
- The parties may mediate under the MCMP only if:
(1) Both parties agree to mediation;
(2) The contract is for the provision of goods or services for a wedding event; and
(3) The wedding event was scheduled to take place on a date on or after 8 May 2021.
- Please note that your counterparty is at liberty to decline to attend mediation, and enforce the determination.
6. Who are the mediators?
- The mediators are professionals from various backgrounds, and they include lawyers, managers, business owners and community leaders. They are trained in, and have vast experience in voluntary and Court-referred mediations.
7. How much does mediation under the MCMP cost?
- Mediation under the MCMP is free.
8. The Safe Management Measures permit the holding of my wedding event. Should I nevertheless cancel my wedding event and request for mediation under the MCMP?
The mediation process is voluntary and may only take place if both parties agree to mediate. Further, for a settlement to take place, both parties must reach an agreement. No settlement will be imposed by the mediator.
If the vendor declines to attend mediation, or no agreement is reached during the mediation, the existing contract between the parties, including any contractual provisions for forfeiture of the deposit and charging of cancellation fees, remain binding. You may wish to seek legal advice on your contractual obligations.
Parties should consider carefully whether they wish to proceed with their event as originally contracted (especially when they are able to), or would like to attempt to negotiate with their vendor for alternative arrangements (in which case the MCMP is one platform parties can use).
9. The other party does not wish to attend mediation. What can I do?
Mediation is a voluntary process – both parties have to agree to mediate.
If the other party had previously rejected your proposal for mediation, you may nevertheless make another attempt to initiate a mediation under the MCMP by sending a Request for Mediation to the Ministry of Law, copying the other party. The other party will then be able to re-consider your request for mediation, and will be asked to respond on whether he or she agrees to mediate under the MCMP.
If the other party continues to decline mediation, a mediation cannot be arranged. We encourage you to continue negotiating with your counterparty outside of the MCMP, to come to a mutually acceptable solution.
Otherwise, either party can apply to the Courts to resolve their dispute. If you wish to seek legal advice on your contractual dispute, you can refer to https://go.gov.sg/legal-asst for avenues of legal assistance.
10. The other party sent me a Request for Mediation. Can I decline to attend mediation?
Yes, one can decline to attend mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process – both parties have to agree to mediate.
However, we encourage you to participate in the mediation.
If the dispute is not settled amicably and has to be resolved in court, both parties may end up spending substantial time and costs on legal proceedings. In most cases, the costs would be disproportionate to the sum in dispute. The process is adversarial and the outcome may not be the desired outcome for either or both parties.
In contrast, mediation allows parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution in a confidential and non-confrontational setting. Parties are guided by the mediator to focus on issues that are important and to consider pragmatic solutions that work for both parties.
Please also note that the Court, in deciding the issue of costs, may take into account the parties’ conduct in relation to any attempt to resolve the matter by mediation, including a party’s refusal to attend mediation.
11. My wedding event is scheduled to be held soon. Can MinLaw help to expedite and arrange for a mediation session before the event day?
MinLaw targets to schedule a mediation session within two weeks of the return of the Agreement to Mediate, subject to the mediator’s and parties’ availabilities.
You can expedite the process by obtaining the other party’s agreement to mediate before submitting the Request for Mediation.
- Please refer to “Steps in the Mediation Process” for information on the expected timeframes.
- Even if the mediation is not scheduled before your wedding event, after your wedding event proceeds, the parties are still eligible for mediation under the MCMP to settle any outstanding disputes, if the wedding event was scheduled to take place on a date on or after 8 May 2021.
12. My wedding event is scheduled to be held (e.g. on 25 July 2021) before the scheduled mediation session (e.g. on 2 August 2021). Must I still continue to fulfil my existing contractual obligations (e.g. continue paying my vendor)?
Unless and until another agreement is reached (whether privately with the vendor, or during mediation under the MCMP), the existing contract is binding. A failure to fulfil one’s contractual obligations may result in a breach of contract.
Further, the mediation process may not result in a settlement. In that case, the existing contract between parties will remain binding on the parties. We encourage you to seek legal advice on your contractual obligations.
You may wish to seek agreement from your counterparty to temporarily suspend contractual obligations pending the mediation session, and/or to seek legal advice on your contractual obligations.
During Mediation ↩
13. Who can attend the mediation session? Can my lawyer / family member / best friend attend the mediation session with me?
- The mediation session may only be attended by:
- The mediator; and
- The parties to the contract, namely:
- The couple, if both partners are parties to the contract;
- The vendor (if the vendor is an individual), or the vendor’s authorised officer(s) or employee(s) (if the vendor is a company or business);
- A party to the mediation shall not be represented by a lawyer at the mediation.
14. What are some possible outcomes of mediation?
The outcome of mediation is controlled by parties, who, facilitated by the mediator, will develop their own solution.
Some possible non-exhaustive outcomes that parties could agree on include:
- Postponement of the event;
- Downsizing of the event, with adjustments to the contract price;
- Cancellation of the event, with the unutilised deposit to be converted to credit that can be used for other goods and services or transferred to third parties;
- Cancellation of the event, with part of the deposit to be kept by the vendor, and part of the deposit to be returned to the customer.
15. If we do not manage to reach a settlement agreement within 2 hours, can a further mediation session be arranged?
- Yes, if both parties agree and the Mediator is of the view that a further mediation session would be beneficial.
16. What happens if we do not manage to settle the dispute during mediation?
- Parties are at liberty to consider other forms of dispute resolution, including continued negotiation or through Court proceedings.
- If you wish to seek legal advice on your contractual dispute, you can refer to https://go.gov.sg/legal-asst for avenues of legal assistance.
17. Can I request for the mediation to be conducted face-to-face?
The mediation session will generally be conducted virtually via videoconference. This is similar to how mediations are conducted for small-value disputes at the Singapore Mediation Centre under the Law Society Mediation Scheme.
However, if the mediator deems that it may be more effective for both parties to attend a face-to-face mediation, the mediator may arrange the mediation to be conducted in person.
If you have good reasons for wanting a face-to-face mediation (e.g. you do not have easy access to the internet, or you are not comfortable with Zoom), please write in to the email address that the Ministry of Law had used to contact you, stating your reasons for wanting a face-to-face mediation. Please copy the other party when you write in.
18. We entered a settlement agreement during the mediation. However, I have since realised that I cannot meet my obligations under the settlement agreement. What can I do?
A signed settlement agreement is binding and can be enforced in Court by the other party. Therefore, we encourage both parties to agree to the terms of a settlement agreement that they are able to comply with.
However, after a settlement agreement is entered into, if parties agree, they may request for a subsequent mediation session by writing in to the Ministry of Law by 31 December 2021. If the other party does not agree to a subsequent mediation, or no further settlement agreement is reached at the re-mediation session, the first settlement agreement remains binding on the parties. You may wish to seek legal advice on your contractual obligations.
19. We signed a settlement agreement during the mediation. However, the other party did not honour the settlement agreement. What can I do?
- A settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement. You may commence legal proceedings to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement.
- If you require legal advice on enforcing your settlement agreement, you can refer to https://go.gov.sg/legal-asst for avenues of legal assistance. You may also wish to approach the Community Justice Centre (CJC) at the State Courts to arrange for free legal advice with a lawyer. The CJC’s contact information can be found at https://www.cjc.org.sg/services/legal-services/on-site-legal-clinic-oslas/.
20. What are the current safe management measures for wedding events?
- Please refer to this link for the latest safe management measures for wedding solemnisations and receptions.
21. I have other questions about the MCMP. Who do I contact?