Ticketmaster, concert organizers under fire over coronavirus refunds

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Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, are facing legal action over unpaid refunds for events delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, court papers show.

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Ticketmaster, which processes sales to Live Nation events, is being accused of retroactively revising its policies around March 14 so customers would be given their money back only for canceled events, not those rescheduled or indefinitely postponed, according to court papers obtained by FOX Business.

It's an issue that's not unique to Ticketmaster. From sports games to concerts, events across the country remain in limbo for the foreseeable future, leaving many ticketholders in the dark about whether they will get their cash.

Prior to the outbreak, the ticketing company assured customers they would receive a refund if an event were postponed, rescheduled or canceled, the lawsuit stated. That policy, followed until at least March 13, was largely the reason why customers paid "premium prices for tickets and substantial fees directly to Ticketmaster," the lawsuit stated.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
LYVLIVE NATION ENTERTAINMENT56.44+2.97+5.55%

CORONAVIRUS PROMPTS TAYLOR SWIFT TO CANCEL 2020 CONCERT TOUR

The mass cancellation of live events as states across the nation shut down to curb the spread of COVID-19, however, created unprecedented refund demand.

Not only were events from tours to awards shows, conventions, and festivals scrapped in rapid succession, concert tours were postponed, movie releases shifted and Broadway went dark.

Health experts now predict that live concerts won't make a full comeback until the fall of 2021 at the earliest, according to the New York Times.

In the meantime, if customers head to the "How to do I get my refund" page on Ticketmaster's website, they are shown a message in bold red letters stating, "Refunds are available if your event is canceled. Exceptions include MLB and US Open."

Around March 15, the company sent customers an email notifying them that it's "working with the event organizer to identify new dates (for events that are postponed)," and will contact ticketholders as soon as confirmation is available.

One plaintiff in the suit, Derek Hansen, claims he is out $590 after the company notified him that two concerts scheduled in late April were postponed indefinitely and he would not be refunded.

Roughly a month after the lawsuit was filed, though, Ticketmaster president Jared Smith told users in an open letter that "Ticketmaster, with the support of our clients, intends to honor our longstanding practice of allowing refunds on canceled or postponed shows."

In total, 30,000 events had been impacted as a result of COVID-19 by mid-April, according to Ticketmaster.  The company typically sends payment revenue to event organizers at the end of each week, Smith said, and had already handed over $2 billion in cash for the events in question, "making it impossible to issue refunds to fans before recouping sales receipts from the organizers, as we’ve done in the past."

He promised that Ticketmaster intended to refund as many tickets as possible "in as timely a fashion as is feasible."

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It had already begun the process for 12,000 canceled events as well as 5,000 that were rescheduled, he said.

Promoters are working through scheduling options for the remaining 14,000 events that have been upended, which include sporting events, concerts and Broadway shows.

Representatives for Ticketmaster and Live Nation didn't immediately responded to FOX Business' request for comment.

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