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StubHub sued over new no-refund policy

Secondary ticketing giant StubHub has become the first ticket seller to face legal action as a result of a refund policy that offers credit vouchers in lieu of cash.

Ticket vouchers have become a popular refund mechanism for cancelled shows during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, with a growing number of governments backing industry associations’ calls for their members to be able to temporarily hold onto customers’ funds. Vincenzo Spera, president of Italian promoters’ association Assomusica, last week described a government-backed voucher scheme in Italy as a “lifesaver” for the struggling concert business.

StubHub similarly recently moved to a voucher-only model in North America, amid speculation the US ticket resale site, which is in the process of being acquired by Viagogo, is struggling financially.

Now, a class-action lawsuit filed in Wisconsin on Friday (3 April) afternoon accuses StubHub of violating its own consumer protection promise with the move, with plaintiff Matthew McMillan saying the company is “retroactively” backing out of its “longstanding ‘FanProtect’ guarantee […] in response to apparent liabilities it would incur stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Instead of instituting responsible financial transaction policies, StubHub made it their practice to pay ticket sellers before the event had occurred

According to Law360, McMillan’s suit alleges StubHub brought on its financial crisis itself through its own policy of paying ticket resellers (touts/brokers) before the event has occurred, despite the “entirely foreseeable scenario that world occurrences would cause the simultaneous cancellation of numerous public events.”

“Instead of instituting responsible financial transaction policies, defendants [StubHub] made it their practice to pay ticket sellers before the event had occurred,” the complaint reads, “exposing themselves to the possibility that they would be left holding the bag (or have to ignore their own guarantee and cheat their customers) if an event was canceled and they could not promptly collect from sellers.”

In a statement, McMillan’s lawyer, Nicholas Coulson of Liddle & Dubin, says: “Dumping promised refunds for expiring coupons during the time of greatest financial suffering in recent history is cruel and wrong, especially because people have no idea if they’ll even be able to use the coupons. We don’t know what the next 12 months are going to look like.

“Through this action, we hope to provide people some small bit of relief during this uncertain time.”

As of 25 March, StubHub is offering fans with tickets for cancelled events with a coupon valued at 120% of their original purchase.

 


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Live Nation acquires US indie Frank Productions

Live Nation is to acquire a majority interest in Frank Productions, one of the largest remaining independent promoters in the United States.

The acquisition fuses the “independent spirit” of Madison, Wisconsin-based Frank Productions – a third-generation family owned business founded by Herb Frank in 1965 – with the “breadth of Live Nation’s resources”, according to a statement from the two companies, with all Frank employees expected to remain in place under the new joint venture.

The deal is Live Nation’s first acquisition of 2018, after a record-breaking 11 in 2017. Last year also saw a host of deals for Frank Productions, including the acquisition of High Noon Saloon (400-cap.) in Madison; a merger with Majestic Live, which operates the Majestic Theatre in Madison and the Blue Note and Rose Music Hall in Columbia, Missouri); and the launch of the Sylvee, a new, 2,500-capacity concert hall in Madison expected to open later this year.

The company will also now operate the Live Nation-run Orpheum Theater (1,700-cap.) in Madison, effective immediately.

“This partnership made sense for Live Nation on every level, and we’re excited to welcome Larry, Fred and all of Frank Productions to the team”

“Frank Productions has been around for over 50 years because we have continuously found new, innovative ways to help artists grow their careers the way they choose,” say Frank Productions’ co-owners, Larry and Fred Frank (pictured), in a joint statement, “which is a vision we share with Live Nation and should make for a very seamless partnership.

“Our relentless entrepreneurial spirit has helped grow Frank Productions from an independent family operation into a full-service concert promotion company based in the heart of Madison, Wisconsin, with over 70 employees and key affiliates like Frank Productions Concerts here in Madison, NS2 in Nashville, CMoore Live in Boise and now Live Nation across the globe.”

“This partnership made sense for Live Nation on every level, [and] we’re excited to welcome Larry, Fred and all of Frank Productions to the team,” adds Bob Roux, co-president of US concerts at Live Nation. “They bring valuable industry expertise, solid market representation and, most importantly, an artist-centric approach that will benefit both performers and music fans.”

 


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