Need help getting refunds on canceled, postponed events? Here’s what you can do

From the Rolling Stones to James Taylor and Janet Jackson, Pittsburgh had some great concerts lined up for this summer. But, unfortunately, most are canceled for now due to the coronavirus.  If you have tickets, the first thing to do is decide what you want.

“Are you willing to go through this process of a rescheduled event when you don’t know what the future holds for you and how it’s going to be happening and what your seats are even going to be, because everything’s changed; or do you want a refund,” consumer lawyer Craig Kimmel said.

Know your consumer rights

Consumer lawyer Craig Kimmel says in most cases, it’s better to get a refund now. And for that, the law is on your side.

“If you paid for something that’s not being provided and material terms of that contract have not been met by the provider, you’re entitled to your money back. That’s simple contract law,” he explained.

You do have to be careful not to agree to something you don’t want, like a voucher for the future, because that could change your legal standing.

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“They’re trying to tell people they either have to accept a voucher for a percentage more than the ticket price or they’re going to reschedule the event,” he said.

It’s important to know your consumer rights when you ask for a refund.

“If they can’t produce to you what you paid for in and around the same time you bought it to occur, then, you’re entitled to your money back. It’s a material term of the agreement,” Kimmel explained.

Ticket sellers changing policies

Unfortunately, not all ticket sellers and venues are making it that easy. Ticketmaster, for example, says you can get a refund if an event is canceled, but if an event is postponed or rescheduled, their website says it's up to the event organizer.

For third party ticket resellers, it gets even more complicated.  The StubHub promise used to be “every order is 100% guaranteed,” but now due to the coronavirus, the company is no longer giving refunds.  Instead, they’re “offering customers 120% credit for the canceled purchases,” according to a letter from the company’s president.

Kimmel says, legally, companies can’t just change the rules due to COVID-19.

"If you want a refund don't accept no for an answer, because if you're entitled to one under the original agreement, you should get one," Kimmel said.

Taking legal action

If you push back and a company still refuses to give your money back, you might have to take legal action, like filing a claim in small claims court.

Kimmel says it’s not as hard as you might think.

“It’s as simple as going down to your local Magistrate Justice and filing a simple one paragraph claim - ‘I bought these tickets, the event was canceled, I can’t get a refund. They’re not offering one and I can’t make the new date. It’s not acceptable,‘” he said, explaining what to write.

His law firm, Kimmel and Silverman, which has a Pittsburgh office, is also helping consumers to file legal claims to get refunds. The firm does it on contingency, so you don’t pay a fee. If they are successful, the defendant pays the legal fees.

Also, if you bought tickets on StubHub, there is a class action lawsuit underway to settle the issue on whether they have to honor refunds.

Kimmel believes the case will be resolved within the next 12 months in favor of consumers.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to underwrite the business problems of this company that can no longer honor the agreement they made,” he said.