SXSW Faces Class-Action Lawsuit After Refusing to Issue Refunds

SXSW 2020 logo

Angry passholders are suing South by Southwest (SXSW) over its strict no-refund policy.  So far, SXSW organizers have refused to return money for this year’s cancelled mega-festival.

Two would-be SXSW 2020 attendees – Massachusetts’s Maria Bromley and Colorado’s Kleber Pauta – filed the class-action lawsuit in an Austin, Texas, U.S. District Court. Bromley spent nearly $1,700 on her SXSW 2020 pass and meal plan, while Pauta paid over $1,000 for the opportunity to attend the 10-day-long Austin event.

At the time of this writing, SXSW organizers hadn’t publicly responded to the lawsuit.

Throughout March, Digital Music News followed SXSW’s hard-fought effort to see its 2020 edition through. However, the domestic onset of the coronavirus pandemic prompted companies like Amazon, Facebook, Warner Music, and many others to withdraw, and in response to an order from the City of Austin, the festival ultimately put its 2020 event on ice. The entertainment showcase had been scheduled to take place between March 13th and March 22nd.

The cancellation’s fiscal impact on SXSW’s team and future cannot be understated. On March 10th, event officials announced that they would be forced to lay off one-third of their employees, just four days after confirming the cancellation; even SXSW 2021’s status is in doubt.

The mega festival’s fine print clearly states that refunds will not be issued “under any circumstances,” though SXSW higher-ups gave passholders the chance to transfer their tickets to any of the next three years’ editions.

SXSW co-founder Nick Barbaro also indicated that his event’s insurance policy didn’t cover pandemics and health emergencies.

Ticketmaster, StubHub, and other ticketing platforms are facing public scrutiny – and lawsuits – over their refund policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the widespread outcry, Live Nation/Ticketmaster amended their refund terms and debuted the Ticket Relief Plan.

On social media, some are continuing to voice their dissatisfaction with SXSW’s clear-cut no-refund policy. “That’s the end of SXSW. If they were smart, they would have done refunds instead of now facing litigation costs. Shows it’s an organization that is run by greed,” one user wrote.

Earlier this month, SXSW and Amazon teamed up to stream films that were previously set to debut at the 2020 event.