While much of the world is coming together to share resources in an attempt to mitigate the financial and emotional toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking, Ticketmaster tried to take a different tactic—until it quickly backfired.
Traditionally, Ticketmaster, the largest seller of event tickets in the United States, offered refunds at the point of purchase in the event of cancelation or postponement. That changed last week when the company quietly changed its terms of service to include refunds only “available if your event is canceled,” according to Digital Music News.
With potentially months of concerts vying for limited venue availability when the country’s shelter-in-place orders are eventually ended, shows may be moved to less convenient dates or even more distant locations. Under that updated policy, those who bought tickets to the original show would be ineligible for refunds. It also affected those who bought tickets months ago but are now among the 22 million Americans who have lost their jobs in the past month and can no longer afford to attend a future show.
After initially releasing a statement via Twitter that “we anticipate the vast majority [of event organizers] will make a refund window available once new dates have been determined,” Ticketmaster on Friday reversed course and offered a 30-day refund window for all postponed shows.
“Neither our clients, nor Ticketmaster, intend to withhold refunds on postponed shows,” Ticketmaster president Jared Smith wrote in the latest statement on April 17. Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, have not set dates for that 30-day window.
A message regarding live event refunds: pic.twitter.com/aHTG42Sd9P
— Ticketmaster (@Ticketmaster) April 17, 2020
AEG Entertainment, Live Nation’s largest competitor among event organizers, previously announced that it will offer refunds for all canceled and postponed shows beginning May 1.
For those who bought concert tickets on the secondary market, StubHub made a similar change to its policies as that of Ticketmaster in late March. The reseller, after initially promising refunds for canceled events under its “FanProtect” guarantee, changed its policy to offer vouchers for 120 percent of the ticket price.
As the tickets were purchased with the previous version of the “guarantee,” a class action lawsuit has been filed in federal court on behalf of the affected ticketbuyers.
“Our policies are designed to accommodate the needs of our buyers and sellers, and we’ll continue to review them as the situation progresses [that the vouchers are valid in the 12 months after receipt],” company officials said in a news release.
Some public health experts, as well as state and local officials in California, anticipate that large events may not fully resume until a vaccine is developed, a process which could take 12 to 18 months or more.
Ticketmaster is no stranger to controversy. In addition to generating outrage and legal action due to price inflation through mandatory fees and monopolistic practices, in late 2018 it was accused by the CBC and Toronto Star of colluding with ticket scalpers to withhold concert tickets from the public sale to collect double fees.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.