According to reports, plaintiffs Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber are claiming “breach of contract and unjust enrichment” over the no-refund policy. The two supposedly spent more than $1,000 USD each as part of their plans to attend the Austin, Texas festival, and instead of getting their money back, were offered free registration (priced at the same amount for the 2020 festival) for either SXSW 2021, 2022 or 2023. Bromley and Kleber were also given a 50% discount — the exact price dependant on the money they spent for 2020 — that can be used for another one of the three previously stated years. The suit further states that these alternatives were announced by organizers on March 12 and will expire on April 30, however it “cannot be certain that future festivals will occur.”
“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 suit read.
A spokesperson for SXSW shared a statement with Billboard, noting, “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. 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.”
The statement continues, “Due to the unique nature of SXSW’s business, where we are reliant on one annual event, we 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. 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.”