South by Southwest (SXSW) is facing a class-action lawsuit over ticket refunds after the 2020 collective of music, film and conference events in Texas was canceled out of concerns regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The complaint underscores that ticket buyers were not offered refunds following the cancelation.

The suit was filed April 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, by Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber. The pair have claimed breach of contract and unjust enrichment, and they said they each spent over $1,000 on attending the event planned for March 12-20 in Austin.

As reported by Billboard, SXSW informed ticket holders that they would not be receiving refunds following the March 6 cancelation of the event. Instead, the fest offered free pass registration equal to the amount they spent on their 2020 tickets for SXSW in 2021, 2022 or 2023. "They were also offered a 50 percent discount based on the amount they spent in 2020 for another one of those three years," the report notes. These offers, made on March 12, according to plaintiffs, pointed out that it "cannot be certain that future festivals will occur."

Bromley and Kleber further allege they were told those offers expire April 30. However, as can be gleaned from the lawsuit, these proposals weren't good enough for the plaintiffs who felt unfairly treated by the event.

"SXSW has … shifted the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic onto festival goers," the complaint outlines. "Individuals who in these desperate times may sorely need the money they paid to SXSW for a festival that never occurred."

In a response to Billboard, SXSW indicated the non-refund policy was in accordance with their usual operations. A spokesperson for the event explained that SXSW had "incurred extensive amounts of non-recoupable costs well in advance of March. These expenditures, and the loss of expected revenue, have resulted in a situation where we do not have the money to issue refunds."

They added, "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. 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."

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