SXSW was one of the first major events to announce it was being canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and following that announcement, some ticketholders became upset. The festival revealed they would not be offering refunds, but would instead allow tickets for this year’s festival to be exchanged for future events. This rubbed some people the wrong way, and now SXSW is facing a class action lawsuit over its ticketing policy.
The lawsuit was filed in US District Court for the Western District Of Texas Austin Division on April 24 by two plaintiffs, Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber. The complains reads in part, “SXSW has, in effect, shifted the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic onto festivalgoers, […] individuals who in these desperate times may sorely need the money they paid to SXSW for a festival that never occurred.”
A SXSW spokesperson offered their reasoning for their ticketing policy, telling Billboard they just don’t have the money to issue refunds:
“When Mayor Steve Adler issued an order on March 6, 2020, prohibiting SXSW from holding the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we understood and agreed with his tough call. The pandemic and the cancellation have caused a tremendous loss to our business, our staff, the City, and its citizens. We are still picking up the pieces after spending a year to program what would have been a remarkable event that required significant time, energy, and resources to produce.
Due to the unique nature of SXSW’s business, where we are reliant on one annual event, we incurred extensive amounts of non-recoupable costs well in advance of March. These expenditures, and the loss of expected revenue, have resulted in a situation where we do not have the money to issue refunds. SXSW, like many small businesses across the country, is in a dire financial situation requiring that we rely on our contracts, which have a clearly stated no refunds policy. Though we wish we were able to do more, we are doing our best to reconcile the situation and offered a deferral package option to purchasers of 2020 registrations.”
Meanwhile, fans aren’t out of options when it comes to quarantine entertainment, as artists are continuing to host livestream concerts from their homes.