What are your legal rights to a refund if an event is cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially classified the recent outbreak of COVID-19 as a Pandemic, resulting in numerous travel bans and the cancellation of thousands of public gatherings due to the rapid spread of the virus.

13th March 2020

Today, the English Premier League announced the suspension of matches until 3 April and UEFA announced that competitions including the Champions League and Europa League football matches that were due to be played on 17 and 18 March, have been postponed because of the outbreak.

Attendees and organisers of major events including music concerts, industry conferences and sporting fixtures are taking a very cautious approach to large gatherings to help minimise the spread of infection and risk of exposure.

With hundreds of thousands of people affected by the cancellation and/or postponement of events, where does the law stand on refunds for the cost of tickets?

Thomas Pertaia, Legal Advisor at DAS Law, has the answers.

If I have booked tickets for an event that is now cancelled, will I automatically be entitled to a refund?

This would largely depend on where you purchased the ticket(s). If the ticket(s) were purchased from official sellers (primary sellers) you would generally be entitled to a refund if the event is cancelled.  This would probably happen automatically but it is advisable to check the terms and conditions on the seller’s website.

A refund may also be available where tickets are purchased from ticket exchange and resale companies, however this may not be issued automatically and you should check the terms and conditions for clarification.

Where tickets are purchased from another individual (i.e. private sale) there is very little redress but it is worth checking with the event organiser if any remedies are offered.

If I have tickets to an event which has not been cancelled but I do not feel safe in large crowds due to the Coronavirus, can I ask for a refund?

Where the event has not been cancelled but you are understandably concerned attending the event, unfortunately there would generally be no right to a refund. However, it is worth contacting the ticket seller as you may be offered a credit note. You should also check the terms and conditions on your cancellation rights.

Can I claim the cost of incidental expenses (hotels/flights/train tickets etc.) for an event that has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus?

Unless the ticket you purchased included travel and accommodation as part of a complete package, you cannot generally claim these expenses.

If an event I have tickets for is cancelled and rescheduled but I now cannot make the new date, can I insist on a refund?

Where the tickets are purchased from a primary seller and the event is rescheduled, you would generally be entitled to a refund.

Where the tickets have been purchased from ticket exchange and resale companies you have limited rights and it would be advisable to check the terms and conditions.

I am due to attend an event on behalf of my employer/ for my work.  The event is still scheduled to go ahead but I do not feel safe attending.  Can my employer insist I attend and could there be any repercussions/disciplinary action if I refuse?

Employers owe duty of care to their employees and have to take appropriate steps to protect the health, safety and welfare of their workforce.

If it was considered safe to attend the event and employee unreasonably refuses to attend, this could lead to disciplinary action. Whether, the event is safe to attend would generally have to be looked at reasonably and objectively, however, if the employee has an underlying and ongoing medical condition, that should also be taken into account by their employer.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

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