Last March, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, live music and performance venues closed their doors.
Shortly afterwards, StubHub, one of the nation’s largest ticket marketplaces, suddenly changed its refund policy — without the consent of folks who had already purchased tickets for events.
As part of the company’s “FanProtect Guarantee,” customers who purchase tickets through StubHub are guaranteed full refunds if events are cancelled. But, last March, the company broke that agreement, instead offering customers an account credit equal to 120% of their purchase.
In response, ten states — including Wisconsin — and the District of Columbia launched an investigation into the San Francisco-based tech company.
In May the company agreed to offer full refunds for the affected customers. More than 8,600 Wisconsinites who purchased tickets through StubHub prior to March 25th, 2020 are now eligible for a full refund, or they can opt to keep their account credits.
Michelle Reinen, a Policy Initiatives Advisor for Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection ( DATCP), says that today’s settlement also sets three stipulations for StubHub going forward.
“The first is that StubHub needs to clearly disclose any modifications to its refund policy before a consumer agrees to it,” Reinen explains. “They need to honor those policies when events are cancelled. And third, they need to promptly process refund requests going forward.”
Reinen says that, since there are two refund options, the total amount StubHub will pay out to Wisconsin customers is still up in the air. The settlement does require StubHub to pay out more than $433,000 in civil penalties if it fails to refund affected customers, or fails to meet any of its other settlement agreements.
For context, StubHub was bought by its competitor Viagogo for more than $4 billion in 2019.
In an emailed statement to WORT, a StubHub spokesperson wrote that, “Adjusting our refund policy for canceled events during the pandemic was a difficult decision, but a necessary one at the time. As soon as circumstances allowed, StubHub achieved its goal of providing impacted customers the choice to keep the 120% credit they were issued when their event was canceled or receive a cash refund.”
StubHub is a ticket marketplace. Like eBay, the platform offers a space for folks to sell and purchase event tickets.
StubHub, and other ticket marketplaces, have faced numerous consumer complaints in recent years. An investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that the platforms were rife with graft and ticket-nabbing bots.
Speculative sales on the platforms, or sales in which brokers don’t actually have tickets advertised as “in-hand,” were at one point so pervasive that the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning letter to ticket marketplaces in 2010.
Customers who haven’t been contacted by StubHub regarding a refund can either contact the company directly or call DATCP’s consumer protection hotline at 800-422-7128.
PHOTO: Nainoa Shizuru / Unsplash