Two prospective SXSW attendees have filed a class action lawsuit against the famed Austin music and media festival over its stringent no-refund policy.
Following its cancellation in early March, SXSW informed its patrons that they would not be issuing refunds, instead offering them registration for its 2021, 2022, or 2023 iterations. They also promised ticket-holders a 50% discount if they opt to attend one of those three future fests.
Following that move, two seething plaintiffs—Massachusetts’s Maria Bromley and Colorado’s Kleber Pauta—have now filed a class action lawsuit against SXSW, claiming "breach of contract and unjust enrichment." Moreover, the tandem alleges that SXSW organizers "cannot be certain that future festivals will occur," essentially rendering the olive branch of the 50% discount a moot point. The latter assertion by Bromley and Pauta can be tied back to an ominous March 9th, 2020 announcement by SXSW officials that they were forced to lay off a large portion of its employees, casting doubt on its 2021 status. Speaking to The Austin Chronicle on the condition of anonymity, a senior official depicted the layoffs as “the only way to stop the bleeding" during a markedly grave time for the event in terms of its fiscal status contrived by the pandemic.
In a statement provided to Billboard, a SXSW spokesperson expounded on the situation at hand. "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," the statement reads. "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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As of the time of writing, SXSW has not responded publicly to the lawsuit.