How it Impacts Ticket Sales for Live Events

COVID-19 has changed the way we do nearly everything, from the way we shop for groceries to the way we gather with family for the holidays. If you’re in the business of selling tickets to a live event, you’ve been hit especially hard due to continually changing circumstances and, in many cases, the requirement to limit the number of people at your event or even cancel it altogether. The need for social distancing makes many of these types of events impossible to hold in their usual manner.

In California, a group of Major League Baseball (MLB) season ticket holders brought suit against the MLB and other ticket resellers on April 20, 2020, alleging that ticket holders ought to be refunded because COVID-19 caused a delay and a change of the season. Plaintiffs alleged that there was no way for the season to continue as planned and that their money was being unlawfully withheld.

While we can certainly commiserate with the fans who shelled out big bucks to watch America’s favorite pastime, the court cases were dismissed by Judge Dale Fisher of the US District Court for the Central District of California. The tickets were sold prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and so the MLB and ticket resellers sold the tickets believing that the games would be held as planned. The uncertainty of whether the games could be held after the beginning of the pandemic, and whether fans could attend, was not intentional on the part of the MLB.

This suit raises important questions for businesses that sell tickets to live events, as well as for consumers. Now that COVID-19 has proven that it is here to stay, it’s time for businesses to be proactive with the terms of their contracts and ticket sales.

Does your ticket sales agreement take the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration? If not, now is the time to take charge and revise your terms. If the event must be canceled or delayed, your terms should state your refund policy clearly.

Whether you will offer a full or partial refund, or hold a smaller event to a select number of ticket holders, your terms should clearly state how you will handle a change in plans due to COVID-19. This keeps buyers fully informed by asking them to agree to your terms prior to purchasing tickets.

As a consumer, keep in mind that local laws may make it impossible for the event you’ve signed up for to happen as planned. With many states limiting gatherings, the event may be unable to proceed no matter how much the venue wants it to continue. The company must also assess their own risk in holding an event during a pandemic which has caused over 300,000 deaths in the United States so far. A ticket reseller has no control over whether the event occurs, and, as in the MLB case mentioned above, may not be liable to offer refunds at all.

Does your sales contract include COVID-19 information? Now is the best time to have your business contract reviewed and updated. Call me, Francine D. Ward, now to schedule your in-person or virtual meeting.

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Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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