South by Southwest is facing a legal battle.
Last Friday, the companies behind the annual festival were sued for refusing to issue refunds for its 2020 edition, which was canceled last month over coronavirus. Billboard reports the class-action lawsuit was filed in Texas federal court last Friday by Maria Bromley and Kleber Pauta—two 2020 ticket-holders who each allegedly spent more than $1,000 to attend this year's festival.
SXSW organizers announced the cancelation on March 6—less than a week before the festival was set to kick off. According to The Wrap, Bromley subsequently reached out to SXSW LLC and SXSW Holdings Inc. on multiple occasions in an effort to get a refund. On April, Bromley allegedly received an email informing her of the company's no-refund policy; instead, she would have the option to use her pass at SXSW in 2021, 2022, or 2023. The plaintiffs stated in the suit they had no plans to attend one of the next three festivals and simply wanted their money back, as the future of SXSW was not guaranteed.
"SXSW has, in effect, shifted the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic onto festivalgoers ... individuals who in these desperate times may sorely need the money they paid to SXSW for a festival that never occurred," the lawsuit read. The plaintiffs are suing for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
"When Mayor Steve Adler issued an order on March 6, 2020, prohibiting SXSW from holding the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we understood and agreed with his tough call," a SXSW spokesperson said in a statement to Billboard. "The pandemic and the cancellation have caused a tremendous loss to our business, our staff, the City, and its citizens. We are still picking up the pieces after spending a year to program what would have been a remarkable event that required significant time, energy, and resources to produce.
"SXSW, like many small businesses across the country, is in a dire financial situation requiring that we rely on our contracts, which have a clearly stated no refunds policy," the spokesperson continued. "Though we wish we were able to do more, we are doing our best to reconcile the situation and offered a deferral package option to purchasers of 2020 registrations."