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SXSW hit with lawsuit over ticket refund policy

The festival will not issue refunds to ticket holders for this year’s canceled event.

Khalid Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

SXSW is facing a class action lawsuit from two ticket holders after the company announced it would not issue refunds for this year’s event, which was canceled last month due to the ongoing pandemic. According to Billboard, plaintiffs Maria Bromley and Kleber Pauta, who allegedly spent over $1,000 on tickets, sued the major festival company for breach of contract and unjust enrichment on Friday (April 24) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division.

Bromley reportedly reached out to SXSW LLC and SXSW Holdings Inc. after festival organizers announced the event’s cancellation less than a week before it was scheduled to begin. Rather than issue refunds for this year’s event, SXSW has instead offered ticket holders deferred entry toward future events in 2021, 2022 or 2023, adding that festival organizers “cannot be certain that future festivals will occur.”

“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,” the lawsuit reads.

“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,” a SXSW spokesperson said in a statement to Billboard. “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.”

“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,” the statement continued. “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.”

The lawsuit follows similar legal troubles for Ticket Master and StubHub, who ultimately ended up offering refunds to ticket holders after receiving backlash for their no-refund policies.

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