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How do I get a refund for a festival that was cancelled last year?

How do I get a refund for a festival that was cancelled last year?

Early last year I purchased tickets for myself and a friend to attend talks at Oxford Literary Festival, which was meant to take place in April 2020.D

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Early last year I purchased tickets for myself and a friend to attend talks at Oxford Literary Festival, which was meant to take place in April 2020.

Due to the coronavirus, the festival was cancelled and the voluntary organising committee has asked that we offer the payment as a donation due to their own financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

This is unacceptable as we are both relying on our state pension and unfortunately are not in a position to just write this off. What can I do to get my money back?

One festival-goer was told she couldn't get a refund for the cancelled event, only new tickets

One festival-goer was told she couldn't get a refund for the cancelled event, only new tickets

One festival-goer was told she couldn’t get a refund for the cancelled event, only new tickets

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: Most events, big and small, were cancelled from March onwards last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This left many chasing up refunds from firms or opting to keep their tickets for a, hopefully, rescheduled time.

However, you have spent the best part of a year trying to get your money back for tickets to talks at the cancelled Oxford Literary Festival.

You had tickets for three talks, at a cost of £12.50 each, totaling £37.50. 

After the event was cancelled, you received an email from the festival advising your tickets would be valid for the rescheduled shows in spring 2021.

It added many people had offered to make cash donations to the festival with some offering to also donate their tickets, letting the time lapse and making more available for sales this year.

There was no mention of getting a cash refund, something that perplexed you.

You wrote to the festival director, Sally Dunsmore, to ask how you could get your money back as you, and your friends, are on a state pension and don’t feel in a position to simply write the money off.

However, you never received a reply. 

You haven’t said if this is the case but it may be that you are not keen to head to the rescheduled shows because of the ongoing pandemic.

Despite not hearing back about getting a cash refund, you are well within your rights to one, according to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

This says that if reperformance of a contract, by way of a rescheduled event, is impossible or cannot be done within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, the consumer is entitled to a reduction in price, which can be the entire price.

The refund must be made without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days.

Therefore, the festival should give you your money back.

It is also a condition of membership of the industry’s self-regulatory body, the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), that ticket sellers refund the ticket’s face value price when an event is cancelled.

However, the Oxford Literary Festival is not a member and therefore, does not have to adhere to these rules.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, customers are entitled to refunds to cancelled events

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, customers are entitled to refunds to cancelled events

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, customers are entitled to refunds to cancelled events

Sally Dunsmore, festival director of Oxford Literary Festival, replies: It was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel – and stand 450 speakers from 30 countries – the 2020 festival two weeks prior to its opening on 27 March due to Covid 19. It was the only and right thing to do.

Because of these extraordinary circumstances, we were faced with not an inconsiderable dilemma, we either took the festival into administration or tried to keep it going, recognising that we were not in a position to refund customers.

We have no assets or reserves to fall back on. The festival is a small charity and relies on a combination of ticket income and sponsorship to stage the annual nine day event.

We are fully committed to honouring the debt to our ticketholders in the only way we can, providing credits for those who have tickets for future events. 

We plan to stage two weekends and one-off events from November 2021 to February 2022 leading up to 10 days in March to April to be announced to ticketholders at the end of the month when the ticket policy will again be confirmed. Ticketholders will be invited to apply for their credited tickets. 

On being faced with no choice about cancelling the festival, we were greatly heartened by the messages of support from writers and ticketholders. So many of our ticketholders very generously donated their 2020 ticket prices or offered to roll them over.

As with everyone else across the cultural sector, more than anything we want to get back to some normality and bring the festival back to life – where speakers and audience can enjoy the comradeship of discussion at a live event.

cancelled: There are several steps customers can take to try and get a refund from a company

cancelled: There are several steps customers can take to try and get a refund from a company

cancelled: There are several steps customers can take to try and get a refund from a company

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: The festival reiterated it doesn’t have the funds to refund ticketholders and, recognising that fact, it had two options. 

One was to go into administration and the other was to try to keep going by asking festival-goers to either donate their tickets or take a credit for future events, and by raising funds from sponsors. 

The festival has taken the second option and said it is committed to honouring the debt to festival-goers in the only way that’s possible in the circumstances – by offering credits.

However, whilst it is possible to sympathise with struggling firms at the moment, it does not change the fact you are entitled to a cash refund, no matter the circumstances.  

The first step to getting your money back would be to write a formal letter of complaint.

You have already written to Sally Dunsmore outlining your concerns and request for refund in April of last year but never received a reply.

The next option would be to see if it belongs to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme, which can offer a way to solve your problem without going to court. 

It could have been worth trying to get a refund via the chargeback scheme where a customer’s bank asks for money back from the supplier’s bank.

Chargeback is a protection placed on the majority of debit, prepaid and credit cards that allows customers to request that a transaction is reversed if there is a problem with the goods or service they’ve paid for.

It is not enshrined in law so there is no obligation to offer it, but it is a part of card rules for banks and lenders, though these rules may vary between card companies.

However, this must be done within 120 days of purchase so would not be an option here.

The final option would be to take the seller to court but this should only be used as a last resort.

In your case, it would most likely not be worth the effort over £37.50 as it will be both a time consuming and stressful experience. 

Hold on to your tickets and perhaps, if the festival gets back on its feet, you can either sell your new tickets on to another customer or request, again, that it gives you a refund.  

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This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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