[HISTORY: Adopted by the Suffolk County Legislature 5-26-1987 by L.L. No. 20-1987 (Ch. 237 of the 1985 Code). Amendments noted where applicable. Uncodified sections of local laws amending these provisions are included at the end of this chapter.]
Consumer protection — See Ch. 387.
The Legislature finds that the Suffolk County Department of Consumer Affairs has received numerous complaints from consumers about catering contracts. These contracts are very often executed long in advance of affairs, at the urging of caterers, to avoid scheduling disappointments.
The Legislature further finds that, upon the execution of such a contract, a consumer is required to make an initial payment and may be required to make periodic payments thereafter.
The Legislature further finds that those who cancel catering contracts, in most instances, do so for legitimate reasons. The major area of consumer complaints relates to these cancellations and the claims of patrons for restitution of these partial payments and, on the other hand, the caterers' claims to damages due to these cancellations.
The Legislature further finds that the common "no return of deposit" clause too often results in an unconscionable and unjust situation because the caterer often rebooks the room for the contracted date at a price more or less than the original contract price but which has no bearing on the "no return of deposit" clause.
The Legislature further finds that a caterer's delegation of its performance of the contract to another caterer without the consumer's consent is unconscionable.
The Legislature intends to cure these inequities by establishing criteria and procedures for cancellation of catering contracts and for the delegating of these contracts.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- Any person or business engaged in serving food or beverages for private functions in Suffolk County.
With regard to cancellation fees:
If a consumer cancels a catering contract and the caterer is able to rebook the date, the caterer's cancellation fee may not exceed 5% of the total contract price or $100, whichever is less, plus actual expenses reasonably incurred.
If a consumer cancels a catering contract and the caterer is unable to rebook the date, the caterer's cancellation fee may not exceed the difference between the total contract price and the cost of performance, plus actual expenses reasonably incurred. The caterer must be able to show diligent efforts to rebook and must fairly calculate the cost of performance.
It will be presumed that a caterer who receives notice of cancellation six months or more before the scheduled date of the function will be able to rebook.
As soon as reasonably practicable after cancellation and in no event later than 30 days after rebooking, the caterer must return to the consumer any sum received which exceeds the caterer's permissible cancellation fee.
Contract forms used by a caterer must conspicuously disclose the caterer's cancellation fee. This does not apply to contract forms ordered to be printed or set in type before the effective date of this chapter, but such forms may not be used for more than six months after this chapter takes effect.
A caterer may not delegate performance of any contract to another caterer without the consumer's consent. This consent may be obtained only after the caterer advised the consumer of its inability to perform under the contract.
The Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs of Suffolk County or his designated representative shall have the power to impose upon any caterer who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter and/or any regulations duly promulgated with respect thereto a civil penalty of not less than $50 nor more than $500 for each such violation.