Ultra Music Festival Ticketholders File Class Action Lawsuit Over Refund Policy

Ultra Music Festival
The Miami Herald, Al Diaz/AP
– Ultra Music Festival
Bayfront Park, Miami.

Shortly after Ultra called off its flagship Miami event in early March because of the oncoming coronavirus pandemic, the festival made headlines for offering ticketholders passes to the 2021 or 2022 editions in lieu of refunds. Two fans have now filed a class action lawsuit against Ultra, demanding to get their money back. 

Ultra Music Festival was supposed to take place March 20-22 at Miami’s Bayfront Park featuring Flume, Major Lazer, Sofi Tukker, Zedd, and DJ sets from Above & Beyond, Afrojack, Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox and many others.
Plaintiffs Samuel Hernandez and Richard Montoure filed the class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida May 26 “on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated.” The suit notes that “plaintiffs believe, and on that basis allege, that the class consists of hundreds of thousands of people.” 
Hernandez, a resident of Miami, purchased six tickets to Ultra for approximately $3,000. He claims that after requesting a refund via email, Ultra “ignored the request” and directed him to fill out a form in an email that went over the package of benefits being offered, including a deferral offer that would only remain open until April 8. He requested to transfer two of the tickets to an upcoming year because he “did not want to lose the entire value of his Ultra tickets and because Ultra did not provide him with any other option.” 
Montoure, who is a resident of Grayland, Wash., purchased two general admission 3-day Tier 3 passes for approximately $1,032 inclusive of taxes and fees. He also sent an email to Ultra requesting a refund and did not receive a response other than an email regarding the deadline to “claim his ‘benefits’ for future festivals.” The lawsuit states, “Because Plaintiff Montoure did not want to lose the entire value of his Ultra tickets and because Ultra did not provide him any other option, he ‘claimed [his] benefits’ on or about April 7, 2020.” 
The suit takes issue with a provision of Ultra’s ticketing terms and conditions that notes that the festival “may, in its sole and absolute discretion elect to either issue a full or partial refund to Purchaser, not issue any refunds, or reschedule the Event.” The lawsuit states, “Through the refund provision, Ultra purports to reserve to itself the right to retain any and all monies paid for tickets regardless of whether Ultra elects to put on the festival, essentially (and impermissibly) rendering its obligations under the TT&C illusory and the agreement itself an unenforceable unilateral option contract.” 
The class action complaint is demanding a jury trial and the plaintiffs are seeking to “recover the amount each paid to Ultra for their tickets, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs and interest.
“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every part of the global economy but we do not believe that gives the Ultra Music Festival the right to shift the burden of this extraordinary crisis onto its customers, who, in some cases, paid thousands of dollars to attend this festival and now the COVID-19 pandemic has or will preclude them from ever using any credit.  We look forward to seeking to recover cash refunds for our clients and the class members,” Joe Sauder of Sauder Schelkopf, the lawfirm representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. 
When Ultra was called off March 6, citing an official directive from the city of Miami and the Florida Governor’s declaration of a public health emergency, it marked the first major U.S. event affected by COVID-19, with Austin’s South By Southwest canceled later that day, followed by the postponement of Coachella a few days later and the eventual nixing of just about every festival and tour, large or small. 
While the terms postponement and cancellation may be interchangeable to the general public, many in the live industry know word choice makes a huge difference. Though Miami’s edition of Ultra is pushed back a whole year, the announcement from festival organizers doesn’t use the C-word, instead saying that the 2020 festival is “postponed” to March 26-28, 2021.
On the other hand, South by Southwest was officially “canceled,” yet is also not offering fans their money back. A March 12 announcement on the event’s website notes, “Our stated registration policy has always been no refunds, but due to this unprecedented situation, we are offering the following: Defer your badge to 2021, 2022, or 2023, and Get 50% off the walk-up rate in an alternate year of your choosing between 2021 and 2023. This offer is non-transferable and available only to you.” 
In April SXSW was also hit with a class action lawsuit by two plaintiffs who claim they each spent more than $1,000 on tickets, according to Billboard.  
A “Registration Deferral FAQ” posted on SXSW’s website May 7 references the lawsuit and explains, “SXSW is not issuing refunds due to the registration terms that you agreed to at the time of your purchase. Enforcing the no refund policy is necessary because of SXSW’s financial expenses that were required to produce SXSW 2020.” 
The statement adds, “You may be aware that a lawsuit was filed in Austin federal court by two SXSW 2020 registrants seeking refunds and asking to represent a class of all registrants. The court will decide whether the lawsuit will proceed as a class action. The lawsuit, Bromley v. SXSW, No. 1:20-cv-00439-LY, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, and the lawyer representing the plaintiffs is Randy Howry at Howry & Been, 1900 Pearl Street, Austin, Texas 78705-5408, 512-474-7300.”