Ticketmaster has been facing a public backlash over its handling of refunds for events that have been postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many customers have complained of waiting months to receive refunds or only being offered vouchers instead of cash back. So how exactly is Ticketmaster handling event refunds during this unprecedented time?
What is Ticketmaster’s usual refund policy?
Under normal circumstances, Ticketmaster’s refund policy varies depending on the event. For most events, customers can receive a full refund if the event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled. However, some venues and artists have their own specific no-refund policies that override Ticketmaster’s general policy. These no-refund events are clearly labeled on Ticketmaster’s website during the purchasing process.
How has COVID-19 impacted event refunds?
The global pandemic has completely disrupted the live events industry. Thousands of concerts, festivals, sports games and more have been indefinitely postponed or canceled to prevent the virus’s spread. This has left Ticketmaster holding millions of dollars worth of tickets for events that no longer have a set date.
Issuing refunds has become incredibly complex for a few key reasons:
- Uncertainty if postponed events can eventually be rescheduled
- Venues and event organizers also suffering financially and may not be able to pay back refunds
- A sudden influx of refund requests that is difficult to process all at once
What refund options are being offered?
Instead of immediately issuing cash refunds, Ticketmaster has been offering affected customers the following options first:
Ticket holders can opt to receive an event voucher valued at 150% of their original ticket price. This voucher can be used to purchase future tickets for any event on Ticketmaster. Voucher funds never expire.
Fans can let Ticketmaster donate the value of their tickets to charity. The recipient charities have included MusiCares and WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
If an event has been officially canceled with no plans to reschedule, customers can request an electronic refund. The funds will be credited back to the original payment method used to purchase the tickets.
Why are some refunds delayed?
Even when electronic refunds are offered for canceled events, customers have reported lengthy delays in receiving their money back. In some cases refunds are taking upwards of 4-6 months to process.
Ticketmaster has stated this is due to an incredibly high volume of refund requests and limitations on existing staffing. People requesting refunds today bought tickets months or even years ago. So payments have to be traced back to their original databases and payment processors – which is a time-consuming process.
Most event venues have also had to scale back staff during COVID-19 closures. Their capacity to handle refunds has been severely reduced. Ticketmaster has needed to pick up much of the workload themselves.
Lawsuits and complaints
The delays and voucher system have resulted in much public criticism of Ticketmaster. Some key legal action and complaints include:
- Multiple class action lawsuits in the U.S. claiming unjust enrichment and violation of state refund laws
- A Canadian class action lawsuit with similar claims
- Hundreds of complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and state attorneys general
- A call for a federal investigation and refund regulation
Response and improvements
Ticketmaster has responded to the backlash by taking the following steps to improve its refund process:
- Boosting customer service staff to help manage inquiries
- Updating website language to clarify when refunds can be expected
- Expanding self-service refund options for quicker processing
- Working with venue clients on their refund policies and capabilities
- Asking legislators for clearer FTC guidelines on mass event refunds
The company has also maintained that cash refunds are being provided when required by state laws. And vouchers remain optional – if a voucher is not wanted, customers can still request a refund instead.
Current state of Ticketmaster refunds
As of October 2022, Ticketmaster’s public refund progress includes:
- 11 million total tickets refunded for 4,000+ events as of July 2020
- An additional 7 million refunds projected in 2020-2021
- $2 billion in refunds provided since March 2020
- Wait times down to 30 days for electronic refunds
While Ticketmaster still faces lingering lawsuits and criticisms, they do appear to be making headway in clearing the massive backlog of refund requests built up over 2020. The company says its focus remains on getting fans’ money back to them as quickly and fairly as possible.
- Usual Ticketmaster refund policy is to provide full refunds for canceled or postponed events
- COVID-19 cancellations created an unprecedented volume of refund requests
- Refund delays were due to tracing original payments and reduced venue staff
- Fans could opt for vouchers valued at 150% of ticket price as an alternative
- Criticism and lawsuits filed over delays and voucher system
- Ticketmaster taking steps to improve refund processing speeds
- 11+ million tickets refunded and $2 billion returned to fans so far
The bottom line
The COVID-19 pandemic completely disrupted Ticketmaster’s normal refund process and resources. Unprecedented demand combined with reduced venue capabilities created massive delays. Ticketmaster made missteps in communication and convenience for fans awaiting refunds. But substantial progress has been made in issuing billions of dollars in ticket refunds to date. Challenges remain, but Ticketmaster claims it is prioritizing getting fans their money back. Continued process improvements and transparency can help restore trust in its services.