Last update: 14/04/2020 – 16:45
With the restriction of social gatherings and closing down of venues and clubs all over Europe, the COVID-19 crisis has brought up many issues related to event management and cancellation.
While many live music scenes struggle to maintain their cash-flow in the green, they are often entitle to reimburse the audience for their tickets, in case of a cancelled show. And what about events organised after the national quarantine or social gathering restrictions period?
Many live music associations have asked their government some clarity and support on this matter, and many new cancellation policies have been implemented in order to try to provide live music scenes with financial safety.
Live music associations have to deal with public policies regarding cancellation and refund as well as private policies with the insurance companies.
Find a list of national cancellation policies for COVID-19 below.
Minister of Consumer Affairs Nathalie Muylle announced the following measures:
In case of force majeure, the organizer must not fulfill his contractual obligations, the same applies in reverse for the customer. Specifically, this means that the customer can request a refund of sums already paid. The organizer may postpone an event to a later date, however the consumer cannot be obliged to accept the event on an alternative date and in this case is entitled to a refund of his ticket.
As this situation would currently lead to severe income loss and could put many organizations in serious financial difficulties, this arrangement was worked out for events affected by the corona crisis:
• The organizer will temporarily not be required to refund tickets if the same event is organized at a later date within a reasonable time
• If the consumer can demonstrate that it is not possible to attend the event on that new date, a refund of the tickets can be provided (for example illness or professional reasons)
• If the event cannot be organized at a later time, the organizer must be given enough time to make the refunds so that refunds can be spread over time.
In France, the quarantine and ban on public gatherings extends until the 15th of April. Organisations from the French music sector have asked the government for a clear statement that would help upcoming events to prepare for a possible cancellation, postponement or reshaping of their events and project. They demand the government to inform organisers at least 8 weeks in advance. The French live music sector remains in the uncertainty whether they will be able to continue their activity this summer.
On the 25th of March, the government has released a extension of the refund policy in case of cancelled events.
- these new rules apply for any event cancellation between the the 1st of March and 15th of September 2020;
- once an event is cancelled, the organiser has 30 days to inform their audience and propose a voucher valid for 18 months. The organiser has 3 months to propose a similar event (posponment of the event, if possible);
- the voucher can be accepted and used by the purchaser, or they can not use it and wait for the 18 months to be automiatically refunded;
To relieve event organisers and let them keep as much liquidity as possible, the German government cabinet issued a law according to which organisers can offer ticket purchasers a voucher instead of a refund of the ticket price if an event is canceled due to the corona pandemic. The voucher would cover the totality of the price paid by the purchaser as no costs may be charged for issuing and sending the voucher. The holder of the voucher may ask to be reimbursed if they prefer. The draft law has yet to be adopted by the German Bundestag.
>> More details (in German)
In Latvia, the Ministry of Culture and the Consumer Rights Protection Centre agreed on some first measures in order to deal with the relationship between event organisers and their audience.
A 6 months time frame was agreed on to allow organisers new dates for postponed shows starting to count form the day when state of emergency will end. During this time frame, tickets do no have to be refunded. If this time frame ends and the organiser does not have announced a new date for the already paid show, the organiser will have to refund the tickets.
Voucher schemes are currently being drawn up from various branches of the Dutch music sector aimed at offering consumers who are entitled to a refund a voucher for the amount of the ticket they paid.
Organisations want to prevent bankruptcies if consumers en masse reclaim their money. The Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) recognizes that due to the current exceptional situation, it may be reasonable and sensible for consumers to accept a voucher instead of demanding a refund.
That is why ACM has formulated principles for sectors that are considering offering vouchers. The point is that a scheme does justice to consumers’ right to a refund, but also takes into account the current situation of entrepreneurs as a result of the corona crisis.
Voucher scheme principles
These principles apply to schemes where consumers have already paid (in) for the delivery of a product or service, but have not yet received it. Under the law, the consumer is then entitled to a refund. When offering a voucher:
- The basic principle remains that consumers are in principle entitled to a refund in case of cancellations. This is a legal right that ACM cannot set aside;
- The voucher must be a fully-fledged replacement for the consumer, for example by delivering the product or service at a later date with an equal or good comparable product or service;
- The voucher must have a reasonable period of validity, for example 12 months;
- Residual amount (amount of the voucher that has not yet been spent) must be paid afterwards actively and within a reasonable period by the entrepreneur. The consumer should not have to do anything for that;
- The voucher must also reimburse previously paid reservation, administration and the like.
- Consumers who have made a down payment will not be required to pay the remainder of the sum if the company is unable to fulfill the contract. The consumer will then receive a voucher for the amount of the deposit that he has made.
The “Keep Your Ticket, Enjoy Later” campaign, in which VNPF is taking part and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Culture, aims to sensitize the audience to what good accepting a voucher can do to live music scenes.
>> More information on Save Your Ticket, Enjoy Later (in English)
Svensk Live has prepared the following policy for its members regarding ticket refund. These constitute clear recommandations made by the Swedish live music association to its government, this policy is not (yet) implemented:
• Tickets for events canceled following the ongoing pandemic of Covid-19 and the government’s decision to limit public gatherings and not be relocated to a new location or date are refunded to the customer.
• Tickets for events that are moved to a new date, and which do not significantly change in content, are valid for the new date and will not be redeemed. In the event that the customer can show that they are not able to attend on the advanced date, the organizer should first offer a replacement ticket to another event arranged by the organizer within 24 months from the original date of the event. Alternatively, gift vouchers, coupons or equivalent compensation can be valid within 24 months of the event’s original date issued by the organizer.
It is of the utmost importance to immediately obtain the support of the authorities for this policy to avoid that organizers, large and small, have liquidity problems so large that the operations can no longer be continued.