A majority of music festivals that were set to take place in the Netherlands this summer and forced into postponement by the coronavirus pandemic will not issue refunds for ticket holders who request them until after the rescheduled event has taken place in 2021.
This includes festivals run by the major promoters ID&T and MOJO such as Awakenings, Mysteryland, Amsterdam Open Air, Lowlands, Woo Hah!, Pinkpop and Down The Rabbit Hole, as well as popular electronic music festivals like Dekmantel, Free Your Mind, Solar Weekend and Music On Festival.
The Dutch culture sector has developed an initiative called the Corona Crisis Ticket Scheme or ‘Save your ticket’, encouraging event ticket holders to support the industry in surviving the economic crisis by attending rescheduled events. It’s been developed alongside the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and is in line with the rules of the ACM (Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets).
The initiative applies when a postponed festival is rescheduled to 2021, as long as it’s no more than 13 months on from the original date.
The initiative’s website states: “As a consumer, you are always entitled to a refund of the ticket price. However, the current coronacrisis means that the financial impact is so big for the sector that [clubs, venues, etc.] could go bankrupt, should everyone with a ticket reclaim their money.”
If a ticket holder is unable to attend the rescheduled date or does not want to, they have the option of taking a voucher of equal monetary value, including booking or service fees, to use on any other event put on by the organiser for a minimum of 12 months.
If the ticket holder is unable to attend the rescheduled event and does not want a voucher, they can request a monetary refund. This must be issued no later than one month after the rescheduled date, meaning an event due to take place this summer has until summer 2021 to process refunds.
Ticket holders are also being given the option to donate the price of their tickets to festivals if they choose to.
A report by NU.nl in May found that the cultural sector initially wanted an emergency law to be put in place postponing consumer rights to stop an influx of refunds that may cause the industry to collapse, but this proved impossible so events were postponed and the Save Your Ticket scheme was initiated instead.
Speaking to NU.nl, Berend Schans, director of the Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals (VNPF) said: “It is simply the case in Dutch law that as a consumer you are not a preferred creditor, as a consumer you are at the back of the queue.”*
Gerard Spierenburg, spokesperson for the Consumentenbond (Consumers' Association), said to Mixmag: “Initially the initiative sounded very good. It was clear to us that if everyone would ask for a refund there would be no cultural sector.” But problems arose after “festivals started to manipulate the whole scheme.”
Spierenburg says the idea that annual festivals are “postponing” events and not cancelling them and hosting new editions next year is “nonsense”: “It doesn't matter if you have the same line-up next year, you're still cancelling this year's event. Be fair about it. You have to ask people to save their ticket, not force them.”
Spierenburg also noted that: “Mostly it's people who have warm feelings for the event so they will be willing to help you. But if you try to force them, you get the opposite reaction. That's exactly what's happened. We got a lot of complaints from customers saying they need the money now and they want a refund now.”
Many global festivals such as Glastonbury in the UK and Coachella in the US offered ticket holders the option to roll over their tickets to 2021, and many have chosen to do so, but the option of timely refunds was also offered to those who wanted it.
A number of ticket holders for Dutch festivals who want refunds have expressed frustration with a year long delay for getting their money back.
Lee Bailey was one of around 60,000 people who planned to attend Pinkpop this summer. Speaking to Mixmag, he said: “I purchased six tickets for Pinkpop 2020 at a cost of €1,600, plus travel expenses that I can't refund.” He called the offered options of a ticket transfer to Pinkpop 2021, a voucher for use on MOJO events, or delayed refund “unacceptable”, adding that: “the time given for a cash refund is too long and I don't know if I will be able to attend or if the line-up will be the same next year.”
When asked if the experience has put him off attending a MOJO event at any point in the future, he said: “If I have to wait ‘til next June for a cash refund then I will not be going to a MOJO organised festival simply out of principle.”
Public comments on a Facebook post by MOJO’s A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise festival also indicate concerns at the delay in refunds. “Based on the nature and design of Lowlands, you can't keep the promise that the 2021 [event] will continue at all. Unfortunately, there's not a great chance. I actually just want my money back now [and not a voucher]. Can you explain here how this can be realised for me (and undoubtedly others) asap?”* says one commenter.
Ticket holders for gigs promoted by MOJO are facing even longer delays. Emi purchased tickets to see Tyler, The Creator at Amsterdam’s AFAS Live on June 8, which has been rescheduled to June 7 in 2021. Emi was offered a voucher of the value of the tickets (more than €300) that can be used for 24 months. If it is not used in that period, a refund will follow.
Emi said: “I did not find it acceptable. As a citizen in Germany I absolutely don’t need a voucher in a completely different country. When I explained it to them, they said ‘if you can’t use it, wait 24 months and you will get the money refund’. Waiting two entire years for my money is absolutely madness and very irresponsible from Ticketmaster / MOJO. I am not pleased with their services at all.”
When asked for comment, MOJO’s customer service company Livecrowd directed Mixmag to Willem Westermann, who previously worked as Head of Production for MOJO and currently works for the Netherland’s VVEM (Association of Event Makers) of which MOJO is a member.
He said the events and promoters that make up the membership of the VVEM are facing significant losses: “So far our estimate (loss in turnover) for the event industry in The Netherlands is €4 billion till September 1. (Normal turnover in a year being €7.4 billion).”
When asked if he empathises with the customers who think a year is a long time to wait for a refund, Westermann said: “Yes, it’s a long wait, but we’re hopeful for 2021 and so are our customers." He claimed: "Approximately 95% of them are most willing to stick to their ticket/voucher and to be our guest in 2021.”
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Dekmantel announced its postponement to 2021 on April 23 and contacted ticket holders on May 28 to inform them of their options: transferring tickets to 2021, taking a voucher valid for use on all Dekmantel events until December 31 next year (“as long as capacity allows” with voucher holders given “a head start before the general sale resumes”), or requesting a monetary refund that will be processed no later than a month after the 2021 event.
The refund option states: “Please keep in mind that these will be processed one month after the new event date at the latest, which is in line with the ‘Save your ticket, enjoy later’ regulation set up by the Dutch government and used by the majority of cultural events to survive the catastrophic financial impact of the corona crisis. However, please trust us that, if the situation permits, we strive to process refund requests sooner. We ask for your understanding and support in these unprecedented times. We also want to stress again that it would be of enormous help to not request a refund, if you are in a financially stable place to do so. Attending next year or getting a voucher supports not only our ability to continue doing what we do, but also critically the wider network of all fantastic people involved.”
Some ticket holders we spoke to did not have an issue with delaying their tickets, recognising that it’s a difficult time for the events industry. Geoffrey Tz planned to go to Dekmantel 2020, and said: “As it’s a very huge struggle for them I have decided to just keep my tickets and switch them onto 2021”.
Others did not appreciate being forced to do this. Public comments posted on the Dekmantel 2021 Facebook event page indicate concerns about the long delay, and also about the likelihood of a 2021 edition being able to go ahead. Dekmantel did not respond to a request for comment.
Awakenings was due to host an Easter edition in April as well as a summer edition in June, and has postponed both until 2021. Hayley Minn had planned to travel over from the UK for the Easter event and was told a refund would not be processed until after the 2021 rescheduled edition. Speaking to Mixmag, she said: “That’s absolutely ridiculous that a company is essentially holding on to our money. There were 13 of us traveling from London to Amsterdam for this event, and the likelihood is we won’t be able to make it next year.” Awakenings and its promoter ID&T did not respond to requests for comment.
Not all Dutch festivals are following the Save Your Ticket scheme.
Liquicity’s 2020 edition was due to take place in July and was forced into postponement in April when the Dutch government extended its ban on public events until the end of August.
The drum ‘n’ bass event offered all ticket holders the option of requesting a full refund (including all service and transaction costs) up until August 1. If they did not request a refund by this point, their ticket would be converted to a 2021 edition ticket.
Boudewijn Kustner, the label manager of Liquicity Records, told us the festival was aware of the Save Your Ticket scheme, but said: “We see the Liquicity community as our family. We prefer to ask our fans to help us, rather than forcing them. Amazingly enough, we see that pretty much everyone held on to their ticket.”
Whether the 2021 editions of festivals around the world will be able to go ahead is still up in the air currently. Further afield in Germany, Nachtiville has newly announced a festival due to take place in January 2021 with its website recognising “we still don't know exactly how Covid-19 will affect our festival” and stating that the organisers have reserved the site for January 2022 in case they have to postpone the event.
Consumentenbond spokesperson Gerard Spierenburg said he would advise caution for people booking tickets for any 2021 events: “I would be cautious and hold onto money until I can be absolutely certain that an event will take place.”
The ECC recommended steps such as making a formal complaint by way of a recorded delivery letter, which it says are more likely to result in a positive outcome for the consumer than emails or phonecalls: “This where you outline your dissatisfaction for the offer provided and reject the alternative provisions and request a refund for a service they were unable to provide.” Juridisch Loket advised using a sample letter on its website to assist writing this.
The ECC also advised consumers to contact their bank if they used a debit or credit card to purchase tickets as banks may be able to assist in making a refund claim, and to ask the festival if they subscribe to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body that assists with disputes, which you can find out more about here.
Ultimately, the ECC said: “If the event organisers do not revisit their position on refunds and the consumer insists on one, the consumer would have to consider formal legal action which is also a long process. Even then, we have no way to advise on the outcome or guarantee whether it would go in the consumers favour as this is a matter of legal interpretation for the courts to decide based on the individual merits of each case.”
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
*quote translated using Google translate
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