Ticketmaster and Live Nation are being sued over allegations that they altered refund policies amid the COVID-19 events blackout.

Ticketholder Derek Hansen filed the lawsuit in California federal court on behalf of all customers that have been affected by the alleged refund refusal for postponed events.

The lawsuit claims that when Hansen purchased tickets to see to Rage Against the Machine shows in February, Ticketmaster’s refund policy indicated “refunds are available if your events is postponed, rescheduled or cancelled.”

The suit alleges that the firms “retroactively changed the refund policies so that visitors to the same page were redirected to a new page that said only that refunds were available for cancellations.”

The lawsuit continued: “In other words, the defendants now identify cancellation as the only basis for getting a refund. Refunds are no longer being offered for postponed shows, which are currently postponed indefinitely, or for rescheduled shows, even if ticket holders can’t make the new date. Ticketmaster’s policy now states that, ‘If the event was moved, postponed, or rescheduled, the [promoter or venue] may set refund limitations’”.

The filing seeks unspecified compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for claims including breach of contract, conversion, unjust enrichment and false advertising.

However, Ticketmaster has recently said in an announcement that it does not intend to withhold refunds on postponed shows. The company said fans will only be able to claim refunds for postponed events once new dates have been set for the event, while cancelled shows will offer automatic refunds.

In an email to Law360, Marie McCrary of Gutride Safier LLP, which represents Hansen, welcomed the development, but said concerns remain.

She said: “We remain concerned that for rescheduled events Ticketmaster is still leaving the refund decision to the organisers of each event. In addition, when events are ‘postponed indefinitely’ without any new date set, refunds are being denied. Ticketmaster needs to offer refunds for all such events.”

The announcement from Ticketmaster followed calls from US Representatives Bill Pascrell and Katie Porter to “stop confiscating fans’ money and demanding they issue full refunds to ALL customers who request them.”

In a letter to the entertainment giants, the members of congress claim that Ticketmaster is “holding hostage money that could contribute to a rent check, electric bill or groceries for children.”

Ticketmaster notes that as of March 1, there were over 55,000 events on its systems scheduled to take place between March 1 and the end of 2020. It claims 30,000 of those events have already been impacted in some way by restrictions on large public gatherings and it “fully anticipates more events will be impacted in the weeks and months ahead.”

More than 12,000 events that use Ticketmaster have already been cancelled and roughly 5,000 events have already been rescheduled.

Jared Smith, president of the Live Nation-owned ticketing giant, said in the letter: “Of the remaining 14,000 events – which include sports, concerts and Broadway shows – promoters are actively working through rescheduling options, which is an incredibly complex task at present given the diminished line of sight into the future as well as the uncertainty around when large gatherings may resume.

“As those events either land new dates or are cancelled, we will work quickly with the event organisers to authorise refunds on those events as well.”

Image: Bertrand