New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with Ticket Fulfillment Services, L.P. (TFS) and five ticket resale websites for failing to provide legally-mandated refunds.
Those refunds were for more than 11,000 affected consumers who purchased tickets — through one of TFS’s affiliate marketers — to events that were cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Under New York law, companies that facilitate ticket resales must guarantee refunds for cancelled events. However, collectively, these companies denied approximately $4.4 million in refunds that they were required to return to consumers.
“As New Yorkers were suffering from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, TFS and its affiliates illegally denied refunds to thousands of consumers for events that were cancelled — all while pocketing millions of dollars in the process,” said Attorney General James. “Today, I’m proud to announce that we’ve helped secure $4.4 million in refunds for any consumer who purchased tickets for events in New York that wants one, and that we’ve forced TFS and its affiliates to change their cancellation process going forward. If an event is cancelled, consumers can rest assured that they will have a right to a refund. My office is committed to delivering justice, which is why we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the welfare and wallets of New Yorkers.”
TFS — a subsidiary of Vivid Seats, LLC, which operates one of the nation’s largest ticket resale marketplaces — licenses the use of Vivid’s platform to independent affiliate marketers nationwide. These affiliate marketers host the online platform on their own websites and seek to convince consumers — through internet advertising — to use the Vivid platform on their websites to purchase tickets. The affiliates are paid a commission for each sale completed on their websites, while TFS retains operational control over the platform under a licensing agreement. Specifically, TFS provides the ticket listings, processes orders and refunds, verifies order details and confirms validity of payment information, charges buyers’ credit and debit cards, coordinates delivery of purchased tickets, and handles customer service. The affiliates were contractually obligated to post Terms of Service on their websites that met with TFS’s approval. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, these Terms of Service prominently informed consumers that they would receive a full refund if their event were cancelled.
Beginning in April 2020, TFS approved requests from five affiliate marketers to abandon refunds in favor of a policy that would only provide credits for future ticket purchases. TFS also drafted or authorized revisions to the various websites’ Terms of Service, where references to revisions to refunds were fully removed. TFS then drafted or approved, and then subsequently sent out tens of thousands of cancellation notices to consumers, informing them that they were subject to the new credit policy, notwithstanding New York law requiring companies that facilitate ticket resales to guarantee refunds for cancelled events. Employees of TFS even refused to provide refunds to many consumers who contacted customer service.
Eventually, and only after Attorney General James began an inquiry and urged the companies to do so, TFS and its affiliates sent emails offering refunds to all New York consumers and out-of-state purchasers to New York venues whose events had been cancelled.
As part of the agreement, TFS will guarantee refunds to New York consumers and to out-of-state buyers to New York venues who purchased their tickets through an affiliate’s website — regardless of the affiliate marketer’s ability or willingness to refund its commission — if the event for which the tickets were purchased was cancelled. TFS will also discontinue an affiliate’s right to sell tickets through its platform if the affiliate fails to offer or intends to deny a refund to any such consumer. In additional agreements with the five marketing affiliates — Denver Media Holdings LLC; Event Ticket Sales, LLC; Internet Referral Services, LLC; RYADD, Inc.; and Theatreland Ltd. — each has authorized refunds for any affected New York consumer or out-of-state buyer to a New York venue, and will inform all future consumers of their legal right to a refund if their event is cancelled.
New Yorkers may be eligible for a refund if their event was cancelled, and if they are either a New York consumer or a consumer who bought a ticket to a New York venue, through any of the following companies’ websites: Albany Theater, Austin Theater, Bold Ticket, Boston Theater, Buffalo Theatre, Chicago Theater, Cincinnati Theater, Denver Theater, Durham Theater, Fort Myers Theater, Grand Rapids Theater, Hershey Harrisburg Theatre, Las Vegas Theater, Nashville Theatre, New York City Theatre, Norfolk Theater, Online City Tickets, Orlando Theatre, Philadelphia Theater, Pittsburgh Theater, Portland Theater, Rochester Theater, Salt Lake City Theater, San Francisco Theater, Sarasota Theater, Seats, Seattle Theatre, Secure Box Office, Syracuse Theater, Theatre Land America, Tickets Center, Tickets on Sale, Toronto Theatre, or West Palm Theater.
To claim a refund, consumers are encouraged to contact customer support for the website they used to purchase their ticket.
Today’s agreement is the latest in Attorney General James’ efforts to protect New Yorkers from unlawful business practices in the event ticket marketplace. Separately, but related to her work protecting ticket buyers, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General James has negotiated for New Yorkers to receive more than $78,000 in refunds for cancelled event tickets.
Also, at the start of the pandemic, Attorney General James worked alongside Ticketmaster to ensure all ticketholders with events that were cancelled due to COVID-19 were offered either refunds or tickets to a later event.
Additionally, in July 2019, Attorney General James announced an agreement with TicketNetwork, Inc., Ticket Galaxy, and their owner that forced the defendants to pay $1.55 million and make numerous reforms after the three unlawfully charged tens of thousands of unsuspecting customers for tickets to concerts, shows, and other live events that the sellers did not actually own.
The Office of the Attorney General reminds consumers that those who purchase tickets on the secondary market for events in New York state that have been cancelled are guaranteed a refund by the reseller of the tickets and/or anyone that facilitates the resale of the tickets.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Ezra Sternstein of the Bureau of Internet and Technology, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Kim A. Berger and Deputy Bureau Chief Clark P. Russell. The Bureau of Internet and Technology is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.