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Dutch consumer group warns mass refunds could lead to football clubs going bankrupt

Dutch football fans have been advised to accept vouchers rather than pursue refunds for unused tickets after the nation’s football association voted to abandon the current league season.

The KNVB said the decision to end the 2019-20 season prematurely was “inevitable” after the Dutch government extended the ban on all public and sporting events until September 1 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The KNVB said it will now seek approval for its action from UEFA, with the agreement of European football’s governing body required for the action to be confirmed.

Should UEFA agree, the Dutch football season would end with top-tier Eredivisie clubs having eight or nine games remaining. Based on an 18,000-average attendance at each of the 148 uncompleted games, some 2.6m tickets would be either unused or unsold.

While season-ticket holders and those who had bought tickets for cancelled matches have a statutory right to a full refund according to Dutch law, consumer rights group Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) said fans should consider accepting a refund-in-kind voucher if the KNVB sets up a scheme.

“The idea behind such schemes is to give consumers who are entitled to refunds vouchers or coupons for the amount of the down payment or financial obligation,” an ACM spokesperson told TheTicketingBusiness.com.

“According to the law, consumers are entitled to refunds if an event is cancelled. In general, we understand that companies cannot repay consumers en masse, because there is a risk that companies will go bankrupt.

“The ACM recognises that, due to the current extraordinary situation, it may be more reasonable and wiser for consumers to accept vouchers instead of demanding refunds, but the consumer should be able to return his ticket if he does not want to use the new date.”

The ACM said it will not take action against companies who adhere to rules that comply with a series of basic principles. For example, the voucher must represent a full replacement and the period of validity of the vouchers must be reasonable, such as within 12 months.

ACM said it supports the idea of making vouchers transferable, so that consumers are still able to resell them.

The ACM added: “If a scheme complies with these basic principles, ACM will not take any action against businesses that adhere to that scheme. However, ACM will keep a close watch on the implementation of such schemes.”

Ajax led the Dutch Eredivisie on goal difference from AZ Alkmaar when the league was abandoned in March. Ajax is the country’s biggest club, with an average attendance of 53,343 this season. FC Emmen had the lowest average in the Netherlands’ top flight at 8,166.