Ticketmaster Faces Backlash Over Refund Policy

The company is no longer giving refunds for postponed events

Fans of Brazilian rock band Nervosa enjoy the concert on the Sunset stage during the Rock in Rio festival 2019 at the Olympic Park. (Photo by MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images)
Fans of Brazilian rock band Nervosa enjoy the concert on the Sunset stage during the Rock in Rio festival 2019 at the Olympic Park. (Photo by MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Times are tough for those involved in the live event industry these days, as nearly everything has been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. But as the New York Times points out, things are rough for fans who purchased tickets to postponed events as well: Ticketmaster is facing backlash after quietly changing the language explaining its refund policy to exclude postponed or rescheduled events.

The company adjusted the language on its website about refunds, changing a line stating that fans can seek refunds “if your event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled” to simply “if your event is canceled.” Of course, that’s bad news for fans who can no longer attend the rescheduled date for the event they purchased tickets to or those who want a refund for an event that has been postponed indefinitely. Many fans took to social media to voice their frustrations, and artists like Jenny Lewis — who tweeted a succinct “F U Ticketmaster” — chimed in as well.

“We have never seen such a quick and total collapse in the live event industry, as in many industries,” John Breyault, vice president of public policy at the National Consumers League, told the Times, “but at the end of the day we can’t lose sight that these are dire financial times for consumers.”

The general consensus from experts cited by the publication is that not refunding postponed events is a bad look for the company. “People will remember how companies act in this crisis,” Ross Johnson, a crisis communications expert based in Los Angeles, said. “This is a whole different ballgame for the Ticketmasters of the world. What they should be doing is saying, ‘We feel your pain.’”

“In the past, with a routine volume of event interruptions, we and our event organizers have been able to consistently offer more flexibility with refunds for postponed and rescheduled events,” Ticketmaster said in a statement. “However, considering the currently unprecedented volume of affected events, we are focused on supporting organizers as they work to determine venue availability, new dates and refund policies, while rescheduling thousands of events in what continues to be an evolving situation.”

Update: Ticketmaster has responded to the controversy with another statement, which you can read in its entirety below.

Ticketmaster serves as the sales platform for event organizers worldwide. Our standard practice is for our clients to hold the cash from their ticket sales. Clients using our platform also retain the ability to set individual policies for their postponed or rescheduled events. 

Typically, event organizers have had the flexibility to offer refunds for virtually all postponed and rescheduled events. However, the unprecedented volume of over 30,000 events impacted to date, coupled with continued uncertainty over setting new dates while awaiting clearance from regional governments, has led to event organizers needing additional time to reschedule their events before deciding to offer refund options.  

As of today, over 11,000 events, including over 4,000 postponed sports, concerts and arts events, have already authorized refunds. While we cannot guarantee all event organizers will offer refunds on their rescheduled events, we anticipate the vast majority will make a refund window available once new dates have been determined. In addition, Ticketmaster continues to issue refunds for all cancelled events.  

The entire Ticketmaster team is working from home and doing its best to respond to all fans and clients.  We will continue to keep fans up to date on the status of events via email and via our Covid-19 event portal.

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