Cancellation of a exhibition due to Covid-19. What now?

The spreading corona virus also affects the international trade fair and event calendar. If you want to protect yourself against the corona virus, you should avoid large crowds. The Robert Koch Institute's recommendation for action states that it is difficult to trace contact persons at trade fairs, congresses or larger events and that the virus could be transmitted to many people under unfavorable conditions.

Against this background, numerous trade fairs have been postponed or canceled entirely in the past few weeks. Prominent examples are the Hanover Fair or the Leipzig Book Fair. We have also felt this in the past few weeks, which has prompted us to take up this topic.

A. Consequences for participants

As a participant in a canceled or postponed trade fair or event, you must first check whether the organizer was even entitled to reschedule the event or to cancel it entirely. Before you can make claims, you must first check the underlying contract. In addition to the cost of a trade fair visit, travel costs, such as flight costs, and hotel bookings, costs for trade fair construction, hostesses, or other costs that are directly related to the trade fair. If the event is canceled or postponed, you must therefore also check these third-party contracts in order to determine whether you are entitled to a termination, a withdrawal or an amendment to the contract, or whether payment obligations continue to exist.

We therefore advise you to take the following immediate measures:

  • Immediate review of contracts related to the fair or event
  • Pay attention to the general terms and conditions (GTC) of these contracts
  • Gather all the documents and / or evidence you need to enforce your claims
  • Notify your contractual partners immediately, i.e. without culpable hesitation (duty to mitigate damage)
  • Are there appropriate insurance policies (e.g. travel cancellation insurance)?
  • If a legal dispute emerges, you should first seek an out-of-court settlement

B. Third party consequences

However, the economic consequences of the corona virus also affect exhibition stand construction, hotels and restaurants. In the event of serious losses, you can apply for short-time work. The employment agency will then take over part of the salary for your employees. Short-time work has a great advantage for you as an employer. You do not have to fire your employees for the time being and do not have to desperately search for new specialists after the crisis. Short-time work benefits offer employees at least some security.

We recommend the following test:

  • Do the contracts concluded contain force majeure clauses (force majeure)?
  • Please note that the German BGB does not contain any force majeure regulations! In other countries, such as China, this looks different.
  • Does this include regulations for epidemics, pandemics or similar events such as epidemics?
  • Are there other termination options?
  • Is there a legal impossibility?
  • Can there be a loss of the business basis (WGG)?

C. Consequences for organizers

If you, as the organizer, would like to cancel an event or a trade fair due to the Corona Virus because you have safety concerns or want to protect your employees, you can also take a look at the contract that you have concluded with the participants or exhibitors.

Whether you as the organizer are entitled to cancel or reschedule the event depends on the individual case and must be checked carefully. Since the BGB does not contain any regulations about Force Majeure, we would like to briefly explain what is actually behind this term.

In German law, this is an external event that comes from outside, which is unpredictable and cannot be prevented with extreme care. The legal consequence of this is that the person liable to pay benefits is released from his duty to perform or the service periods are extended.

In China, there has been firm case law on the subject of SARS since 2003, which expressly views the SARS virus as a reason for the application of such a force majeure regulation. Since the Covid-19 is directly related to the SARS virus, one can assume that force majeure will be affirmed in 2020.

In Germany, this can probably be assumed to be similar in the current state. If you have agreed UN sales law with your contractual partner, an express force majeure regulation is not absolutely necessary in your contract, since the UN sales law contains its own force majeure regulation in international goods traffic. If the contract does not contain a force majeure clause, or if an epidemic was not covered by the regulation, or if no UN sales law was agreed, the rights and obligations of the organizer are based on the applicable law that has been agreed or the general place of jurisdiction.


As always, our team will be happy to answer any further questions on this topic.