Consumers in several states will receive long-delayed refunds from StubHub, according to a multi-state settlement of lawsuits brought in the wake of a shift in the ticket resale company’s refund policy in 2020. Lawsuits were filed after the company stopped honoring its “fan guarantee” refund policy in March of last year, giving consumers who purchased tickets to events that were cancelled a voucher good for future use on StubHub instead of a cash refund.
The settlements will mean a payout of close to $20 million in refunds to more than 75,000 consumers in the nine impacted states and District of Columbia, depending on how many consumers claim refunds.
“Despite the unprecedented circumstances that led to mass cancellations of events last year, StubHub had a responsibility to abide by the terms of its own guarantee policy,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in a statement. “This settlement ensures that consumers will receive the refunds that they are entitled to.”
Thousands of consumers will be eligible for refunds in the wake of the settlements, which cover Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. StubHub itself admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. After holding the line on offering marketplace credit rather than refunds except in states where a refund was required by law, StubHub changed its policy earlier this year to once again allow cash refunds as the live events industry began to reopen following the lengthy halt on large scale gatherings due to COVID.
Putting fans first has always been central to the StubHub business,” a statement published by StubHub following the settlements reads. “Adjusting our refund policy for canceled events during the pandemic was a difficult decision, but a necessary one at the time. As soon as circumstances allowed, StubHub achieved its goal of providing impacted customers the choice to keep the 120% credit they were issued when their event was canceled or receive a cash refund.
“We appreciate the patience of our customers, partners and regulators as we worked toward providing that choice, and we appreciate the ongoing dialogue with the states as we worked to formalize the actions StubHub voluntarily took beginning in May 2021 through this multi-state agreement.”
The settlement comes just days after the acquisition of StubHub by Viagogo – held up by regulators in the UK for a year and a half – was finalized with the sale of StubHub International to a Boston-based venture firm. That transaction had been held up over competition concerns due to the fact that the deal would mean both of the top for-profit ticket resale marketplaces in the UK would be under the same management ever since Viagogo announced its deal to purchase StubHub from former parent eBay for $4 billion early on in 2020.
While many event ticket operators – both in primary and secondary segments – offered consumers the option for taking marketplace credit in lieu of refunds for events that were cancelled, StubHub went a step beyond and eliminated the cash refund option entirely unless required by law. The reaction was quick and decisive – sports business reporter Darren Rovell referred to the policy as “not only absurd (fans deserve their $ back), [but that] it’s unethical and likely illegal,” in a tweet. StubHub countered that criticism with its contention that it was simply impossible to provide cash refunds due to the volume of money involved, and the need to claw back payments from ticket sellers on their platform who had already been paid out for the events that were subsequently cancelled.
The total number of refunds associated with the settlement is difficult to piece together, and likely could fluctuate depending on how many impacted consumers make claims in the process. In Maryland, for example, more than 8,500 residents are expected to see refunds, with StubHub also on the hook for a civil penalty of over $424,000 if StubHub doesn’t meet the terms of the settlement. Those who purchased tickets through StubHub for events subject to the settlement are encouraged to look out for an email from StubHub outlining their options, or contact their state attorney general’s office to make their claim.