Viagogo has been accused of refusing to give refunds on tickets that were purchased via its platform for UK events that have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19.
The secondary ticketing website’s terms and conditions offer a full refund or a voucher worth 125% of the original ticket price for any cancelled shows. However, that does not apply for postponed shows. The criticism here is that the often controversial secondary ticketing company has classified some cancelled shows as postponed shows in order to circumvent the refund obligation.
Examples given in a report by Which? are the Wireless, Reading and Leeds festivals, all of which have been cancelled this year. However, because ticketholders are able to carry their tickets over to the respective 2021 events, Viagogo is not offering refunds. This despite the fact that the festivals themselves – all run by Live Nation’s Festival Republic – are offering refunds as well as the carry-over option.
Ticketholders have complained that, when seeking refunds rather than access to a 2021 festival, Viagogo is suggesting that they put their tickets up for resale on, well, I think you can guess, but if not, and just to confirm, it’s suggesting people put their tickets up for resale on, of course, Viagogo. Which is good for Viagogo, because it’ll earn itself a second commission on those tickets if and when they sell.
However, Festival Republic has pointed out that the carry-over option does not actually mean that the 2020 tickets previously touted will remain valid. Rather that new tickets will be issued at a later date, which would mean that anyone listing their tickets for sale at this point would technically be doing so speculatively, which is against the rules.
“We have informed Viagogo that the events are cancelled not rescheduled and that we are also emailing the Competition And Markets Authority to let them know the situation”, Festival Republic told Which? “If someone has purchased a valid ticket from a secondary site, it would be accepted for entry, however as no 2020 or 2021 tickets have been sent out yet then it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’ with regard to the validity of any tickets being sold on secondary sites. We always ask that people only buy from authorised sites in order to protect themselves”.
Responding to the Which? report, Viagogo said: “This is an unprecedented time for the live events industry, and we understand that customers might be left disappointed by the fact that thousands of events globally are being rescheduled or cancelled. Tickets for these particular events carry over and are valid for the event in 2021, so as per our terms and conditions the customer is not entitled to a refund in this situation”.
“We contact customers to update them on the status of events but they are always welcome to get in touch if they have further queries”, it added. “Also, the customer always has the option of listing their tickets on the platform if they can no longer attend the new date”.
Addressing another complaint in the Which? article – that months after requesting a refund for definitely cancelled shows many people still have not received any money – the company added: “If an event is completely cancelled, the customer is entitled to a cash refund or 125% voucher. In the case of refunds, we appreciate our customers’ patience while we process their request”.
Secondary ticketing sites like Viagogo, of course, make a much bigger deal of their money-back guarantees, because of the risks associated with buying tickets from touts rather than official sellers. However, incidents like this show that there are limitations to those guarantees. And also that, when shows are postponed and cancelled, there are added complications because there are extra links in the chain between promoter and fan – ie the tout and the resale platform.
Of course, we are in unprecedented times in terms of the number of cancellations and postponements, and both primary and secondary ticketing firms have been struggling to keep up. Quite what the legal responsibility of ticket sellers are regarding cash refunds varies from country to country, and is often different for cancelled shows and postponed shows.
However, where a promoter and primary seller is offering cash refunds for shows – cancelled or postponed, or somewhere in between – it’s not a good look if the secondary ticketing platform isn’t replicating that offer, even with the challenge of them having to recoup the money from the tout sitting between them and the primary seller.