SXSW sued over lack of ticket refunds for cancelled 2020 festival

Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival has been sued by ticketholders after it did not refund tickets following its cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As reported by Billboard, the lawsuit was filed in US District Court on April 24 by plaintiffs Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber. The pair claim to have spent more than $1,000 each on tickets for the event.

SXSW – originally scheduled to run between March 13 and March 22 – was officially cancelled on March 6 due to the escalating coronavirus outbreak. Following that, festival organisers said they would not be refunding tickets and instead would be offering free registration to one of their 2021, 2022 or 2023 conferences, equivalent to the amount the customer had paid. Additionally, ticketholders were offered a 50 per cent registration discount to one of the other future conferences.

Bromley and Kleber claim that the offer put forth by SXSW expires at the end of this month, even though organisers allegedly told them that it “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 complaint read.

In a statement on the matter, provided to Billboard, SXSW said it does not have the money to refund ticketholders.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

“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.” Read the festival’s full statement here.

Recently, the organisation was forced to make cuts to its workforce. SXSW has also admitted the event didn’t have insurance that covered pandemics, viruses and diseases.