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Ticketmaster customer annoyed at COVID refund policies must take the matter to arbitration

By | Published on Friday 11 December 2020


A Ticketmaster customer in the US who sued the Live Nation ticketing company over allegations it changed its refund policies after the COVID shutdown began has been told he must take his grievances to arbitration.

Derek Hansen had bought tickets for two Rage Against The Machine shows that were called off early on in the COVID-19 shutdown. Technically the shows were postponed, which is crucial to his beef with Ticketmaster. He claimed that – between him buying his tickets and the gigs being called off – the ticketing firm changed its terms regarding refunds, specifically in relation to postponed shows.

Of course, with so many shows being cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, the spotlight has fallen on the refund policies of most ticketing firms, and also what consumer rights laws in any one country or state say about the obligation of a ticket seller to hand back a ticket buyer’s cash when a show is cancelled or pushed back.

Hansen wasn’t the only person to criticise Ticketmaster US over a tweak to its terms early on in shutdown, although the Live Nation company insisted that it hadn’t actually made any dramatic changes, and that ultimately any decisions regarding refunds for postponed shows were made by its clients, ie any one concert’s promoter.

Nevertheless, Hansen went legal over Ticketmaster’s post-COVID refund policies, seeking class action status for his lawsuit so that other aggrieved ticket-buyers could benefit from any successful outcome.

However, in court the focus of this dispute so far has been Ticketmaster’s claim that Hansen is obliged to take his complaint to arbitration rather than going properly legal, because he agreed to go that route when signing up to the ticketing company’s terms and conditions.

It’s not the first time Ticketmaster has sought to force the arbitration term when faced with legal action from a customer. Hansen’s lawyer argued that his client had not been properly put on notice of that arbitration obligation. After all, it was buried deep in Ticketmaster’s terms, a mere link on the web page directed customers to said terms, and on the Ticketmaster website you’re working against the clock when trying to complete a transaction for an in-demand show.

Ticketmaster’s legal reps countered that Hansen was a repeat purchaser, and he had specifically agreed to Ticketmaster’s terms on multiple occasions, including when he set up his account, whenever he logged into that account and whenever he bought tickets. That was plenty of opportunities to give the terms a good old read.

The judge hearing the case, Edward Chen, basically concurred with the ticketing firm. While he mused that, as a general rule, he thinks companies could generally use much clearer language when having people sign up to terms and conditions, nevertheless Ticketmaster had given Hansen reasonable notice of its terms, including the arbitration obligation.

Therefore, Hansen must take his COVID-related complaints to an arbitrator.