(TMU) — Ticketmaster, a company that has long been notorious for its predatory business practices, is coming under fire yet again, this time for changing its policy regarding refunds as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic shuts down events all over the world.
Many Ticketmaster customers who are now unemployed as a result of the lockdowns are looking to recover some of the money that they spent on summer concert tickets. The company appears to be doing its best to prevent that from happening because they stand to lose millions—if not billions—of dollars if they are forced to issue refunds for all of the tickets sold for the upcoming concert season.
Prior to the pandemic, Ticketmaster offered refunds for any show that is postponed, rescheduled, or canceled. Screenshots shared by the New York Times confirm this previous policy.
However, the language of the policy has now changed to state that refunds are only available if an event is canceled outright. As is the case of many of the large events scheduled for this year, they have not been entirely canceled, but rather indefinitely postponed—which means that ticketholders for these shows are not entitled to refunds.
Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, is equally vilified in the music industry and is often the entity that decides whether these events will be canceled or postponed. This arrangement allows the two companies to coordinate and “indefinitely postpone” events without issuing refunds.
In a statement about the change Ticketmaster explained:
“In the past, with a routine volume of event interruptions, we and our event organizers have been able to consistently offer more flexibility with refunds for postponed and rescheduled events. However, considering the currently unprecedented volume of affected events, we are focused on supporting organizers as they work to determine venue availability, new dates and refund policies, while rescheduling thousands of events in what continues to be an evolving situation.”
The company also put up a “Coronavirus Impact” page on its website which carefully describes the technical difference between cancellations and postponements.
Ticketmaster stands to lose a lot of money if they are forced to issue refunds. Roughly 20,000 concerts have been canceled, postponed, or rescheduled since the social distancing orders have been implemented. The concert industry as a whole could lose $9 billion if events are not authorized to take place until 2021, according to estimations from the Times. The sporting industry could see even greater losses if the regularly scheduled seasons are not able to start until 2021.
Ticketmaster currently offers a link to “Find the Status of Your Event” for those who are not sure about the status of events they have purchased tickets for.
Ticketmaster has a near-monopoly on ticket sales for both concerts and sporting events. StubHub, one of the company’s few competitors, has also been criticized for its refund policy in light of the ongoing pandemic. In fact, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against StubHub because the company is offering vouchers instead of cash refunds for tickets to events that have been canceled.
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