The South by Southwest (SXSW) media, tech and arts festival is the latest to be hit with a lawsuit regarding ticket refunds in the wake of coronavirus-related event postponements and cancellations. Two ticketholders claiming to spend over $1,000 on their 2020 festival passes filed the class-action suit against the Austin festival, which was forced to cancel last month by a city order. Despite the cancellation, organizers did not issue refunds to ticketholders but rather offered free registration for the amount spent in 2020 for any of the festival’s next three editions.
Plaintiffs Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber are claiming breach of contract and unjust enrichment in their case filed with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division, Billboard reports. The two are calling on the festival to issue full refunds for unused 2020 tickets as many are enduring financial hardships in the wake of the turned economy.
“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,” the lawsuit reads.
The festival joins the ranks of dozens of other gatherings and concerts to be impacted by the current pandemic. And as refund policies have come under fire for ticketing giants like Ticketmaster, StubHub and SeatGeek, fans are suing in order to receive their funds back. While the complaints have resulted in reversed policies for Ticketmaster and Live Nation, SXSW is standing by its original policy.
“Due to the unique nature of SXSW’s business, where we are reliant on one annual event, we incurred extensive amounts of non-recoupable costs well in advance of March,” a festival spokesperson told Billboard. “These expenditures, and the loss of expected revenue, have resulted in a situation where we do not have the money to issue refunds. SXSW, like many small businesses across the country, is in a dire financial situation requiring that we rely on our contracts, which have a clearly stated no refunds policy.”
The statement added that while the festival is unable to do more in terms of refunds, they are committed to working with ticketholders through their offer of a deferral package option.