Organizers of the music festival SXSW is now under fire after a class lawsuit was filed against them over the festival's ticket refund policy.
The suit, according to Billboard was filed by plaintiffs Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber last April 24 to the U.S. District Court for Western District of Texas in Austin. According to the complainants, they spent over $1000 each for their tickets for the event. The event was supposed to be held last March 12-20 but the festival was ordered to be cancelled last March 6 in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Texas.
Following the cancellation, SXSW informed their buyers that they would not be receiving any refunds. Instead, the festival offered free registration for their next festivals and a 50 percent discount for an additional year. According to the complaint document obtained by Pitchfork, SXSW's refund and revocation policy that renders in its terms and condions is "an unenforceable, illusory, unilateral option contract that allows SXSW to sell credentials, cancel the festival for any or no reason whatsoever, and retain all customer payments while leaving plaintiffs and the class without a remedy." The refund and revocation policy was also said to be unlawful.
According to the lawsuit, both plaintiffs were informed that the offer to transfer their registration to a future year will expire tomorrow and SXSW "cannot be certain that future festivals will occur."
"SXSW has, in effect, shifted the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic onto festivalgoers ... individuals who in these desperate times may sorely need the money they paid to SXSW for a festival that never occurred," according to the complaint.
A representative to SXSW told Billboard and Stereogum that the pandemic that caused the festival's cancellation resulted in a huge loss to SXSW and its staff. The representative added that due to SXSW relies on one annual event, the expenditures and lost revenue resulted in a situation that they cannot issue a refund.
Pitchfork reported that SXSW LLC laid off a third of its 175 employees.
Other Lawsuits Regarding Refund
SXSW is the latest music-related organization that was being sued due to its refund policies.
1.) StubHub was sued by a plaintiff named Matthew McMillan over the 120% coupon issue instead of a refund. The suit was done after an NHL game which McMillan was supposed to watch was cancelled due to the pandemic and he requested to have a refund. StubHub instead said that they will issue a coupon worth 120% of its purchased price since the game was postponed and not cancelled. The case was filed at the U.S. District Court in Wisconsin and the complaint was around $5 million.
2.) SeatGeek was sued by a man named William Trader for modifying its money-back guarantee policy after the pandemic cancelled the events under its wing. Trader bought two tickets for the concert of Dead & Company in Chicago but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus. He asked SeatGeek for a refund but the company refused to return his money.