One of the big issues surrounding the cancellation of so many shows due to COVID-19 are refunds. While refunds should be absolute right to ticketbuyers, events like Burning Man or Lightning in a Bottle, which are non-profit run and family-owned, respectively, make giving refunds out a bit trickier when it may mean total financial ruin for the event operators. The same couldn’t really be said of behemoth second-hand ticket market StubHub.
A man in Wisconsin has brought forth a $5 million class action lawsuit against the ticket company, alleging it’s broken their long-touted “FanProtect guarantee.” According to the suit, the guarantee promised users they would receive a full money back refund if an event was canceled. However, on March 12, StubHub president Sukhinder Sing Cassidy sent out an email to users stating that while refunds would still available for canceled events, it would also be offering coupons for 120% of the original order price as an alternative. Then, on March 25, StubHub amended its policy, stating that “if the event is canceled and not rescheduled, you will get a refund or credit to use on a future purchase, as determined in StubHub’s sold discretion (unless a refund is required by law).”
Days later, Cassidy sent out another email amending their refund policy entirely: “We are facing significant timing delays in recouping funds from the thousands of sellers on our platform, and expect these challenges to continue in the coming months,” Cassidy wrote in the email. The new policy stated customers would be offered a 120% credit for canceled purchases as a “thank you for remaining patient in a very challenging period.”
The coupon policy was to be made the default policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, except in regions where not giving a full refund would be against the law. The complaint accuses the ticket resale company of breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation, among other claims.
The plaintiff’s attorney Nick Coulson told Billboard StubHub’s conduct is egregious.
“Dumping promised refunds for expiring coupons during the time of greatest financial suffering in recent history is cruel and wrong,” Coulson says. “Especially because people have no idea if they’ll even be able to use the coupons — we don’t know what the next 12 months are going to look like. To the extent that StubHub claims financial constraints have forced its hand (into its customers’ pockets), those constraints are entirely of its own making. Through this action, we hope to provide people some small bit of relief during this uncertain time.”