Published Apr 29, 2020SXSW was one of the first major music festivals to cancel its 2020 edition as coronavirus began to spread in North America, and organizers soon made it clear that they would not offer refunds to those who had purchased tickets or passes as a result. Now, the fest has been served with a class action lawsuit.
As the Austin Statesman reports, the suit was filed last Friday (April 24) by Maria Bromley of Massachusetts and Kleber Pauta of Colorado, who each spent over $1,000 on badges and other expenses. According to the filing, the suit "seeks class-action status on behalf of potentially 'hundreds of thousands' of others similarly rebuffed."
Per the filing, the plaintiffs "bring this action for breach of contract and unjust enrichment in order to recover (money) paid for a festival that never occurred." Bromley and Pauta go on to call SXSW's no refund policy "an unenforceable, illusory, unilateral option contract that allows SXSW to sell credentials, cancel the festival for any or no reason whatsoever, and retain all customer payments while leaving (would-be attendees) without a remedy."
SXSW 2020 was scheduled to run from March 13 to 22. On March 6, the city of Austin cancelled all festival programming, marking the first time in 34 years the event would not take place. Organizers then informed attendees of a festival badge deferral option, allowing "2020 registrants...to defer their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023,"
In a statement made Saturday (April 25), SXSW organizers said the festival is not in a financial position to issue refunds to all badgeholders. "Due to the unique nature of SXSW's business, where we are reliant on one annual event, we incurred extensive amounts of non-recoupable costs well in advance of March," they wrote.
"SXSW, like many small businesses across the country, is in a dire financial situation requiring that we rely on our contracts (agreed to by would-be attendees at the time of purchase), which have a clearly stated no refunds policy. Though we wish we were able to do more, we are doing our best to reconcile the situation and offered a deferral package option."
In March, SXSW's parent company, SXSW LLC, laid off roughly a third of its 175 year-round employees.