In the past when you cancelled an event, refunds used to be pretty straightforward. But things are rarely that simple anymore — there is a whole lotta grey to contend with now. For example, if your event is cancelled due to government restrictions beyond your control, this impacts consumer rights. And what happens if someone gets COVID? Or isn’t vaccinated?
As an event organiser, you want to be sure you are aware of your obligations to your ticket holders and partners. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution in these ever-changing circumstances. This article provides a rundown of what to be aware of and where to find the right information to make sure you follow any legislation that applies to your event:
- When your event is cancelled
- What to do when your attendees fall ill or don’t meet vaccination requirements
- When attendees don’t want to attend due to health concerns
- When the states change their rules (again)
- Checklist for planning your refund policy
When your event is cancelled
Let’s talk about your obligations under the ACCC. You can find an up to date rundown of their regulations around COVID-19 event cancellations here.
Generally, if your event is cancelled the ACCC expects that you will provide ticket holders with a refund or other remedy, such as a credit note or voucher, in most circumstances. This means it’s perfectly acceptable to offer vouchers or reissue tickets if you need to move the date of your event. You may also postpone the date and encourage ticket holders to hang on to their tickets or resell them to someone to support the viability of your event.
It’s also worth noting that most ticketing platforms have their own terms and conditions in place when people purchase a ticket from them — even if it’s to your event. Ticket holders may be eligible for a refund under your ticket issuer’s terms and conditions. There may also be clauses where ticket and transaction fees are non-refundable even in the instance where you are providing a refund to ticket holders.
As an event organiser, you can’t change a policy based on your own circumstances once someone has bought a ticket under these terms. To make sure your policies comply with your ticketing partner, make sure you get up to speed with their terms before you go on sale. This will allow fans to know what they’re signing up for when they buy a ticket, such as if they can’t get a refund on any ticketing fees.
The ACCC also advises treating consumers fairly and with compassion. Generosity in these situations can help your brand in the long run. You may wish to offer a short refund request window of ~7-10 days to process all refunds, giving all other ticket holders the opportunity to hang on to or resell their tickets. This will allow you to give a clear date when all refunds will be processed and reduce the volume of follow up enquiries from ticket holders.
What to do when your attendees fall ill or don’t meet vaccination requirements
A new murky area that is impacting events is attendee health and vaccination requirements. If an individual is required to isolate or can’t prove a vaccination status, they will no longer be able to attend — so do you need to offer a refund or voucher?
We have seen events successfully run events with a no refunds policy, such as Bournemouth 7’s in the UK, If ticket holders were unwell, had a change of plans, or couldn’t meet safety requirements in time for the event, they were directed to Tixel to resell their ticket. This provided a safe and reliable way for fans to recoup their costs, while also keeping the event sold out.
We have also seen many ticket providers update their terms and conditions to include health requirements that fans need to abide by. For example, Oztix has a COVID-19 policy that states when purchasing a ticket:
“You acknowledge that venues are or may become subject to public health orders or advice providing that patrons are vaccinated, are medically exempt from vaccination or can provide evidence of their Covid-19 free status before entering the venue. It is a condition of the booking that patrons abide by any Covid-19 checking-in or verification procedures that the venue implements to address the public health orders or advice.”
Whatever policy you decide to have in place, it’s a good idea to communicate it early to ticket holders (ideally before they buy) to reduce any drama on event day.
When attendees don’t want to attend due to health concerns
If a ticket holder no longer wishes to attend an event due to concerns about COVID-19, or perhaps because they don’t want to get vaccinated, this can be treated as a ‘change of mind’ under consumer law. As with vaccine requirements, this is where having a safe and secure resale can come in handy to give people options outside of asking for a refund.
If you do want to offer refunds in certain circumstances (for example, returning a positive PCR or rapid test), make sure this policy is stated clearly upfront to avoid confusion for ticket holders.
When the states change their rules (again)
Short of being glued to ABC news, it’s hard to keep up with what all the premiers are up to at any given moment. If your event is on the move, these last-minute changes can interfere with your plans and refund policies.
To check your local obligations, bookmark this page from healthdirect. This is a free, government-funded service that keeps an updated rundown of health advice including links to restrictions and vaccination requirements in each state and territory. Be sure to have a plan in place for what to do if local restrictions change and keep your fans informed often and early.
Checklist for planning your refund policy
Before publishing your refund policy, tackle this checklist:
- Check local regulations and compliance requirements for each state your event is being held
- Check your obligations under ACCC
- Check the terms and conditions provided by your ticketing provider
- Consider a variety of common circumstances that your ticket holders may face, including:
- Event cancellation
- Event postponed
- Headliner or major act cancellation
- Positive test or isolation order
- Failure to meet vaccination requirements
- Feeling unwell/symptomatic
Postpone events without the pain
One of the best things you can do to protect your event during these times is to be prepared for anything. Launch your event with Tixel waitlists in place to reduce no-shows, stay flexible and sell out sooner. Learn more or sign up for free now at tixel.com/organisers