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MLB, vendors sued for keeping fan ticket money

Major League BaseballMajor League Baseball and secondary-market ticket vendors like StubHub and Ticketmaster are the targets of a consumer class-action lawsuit, as fans say they are being denied refunds for games postponed and likely canceled so far in the 2020 season.

MLB shut down spring training on March 12 due to coronavirus pandemic concerns and announced a postponement of the 2020 regular season. Since then, MLB has outlined various scenarios for launching the 2020 regular season, including a plan to play games sans fans in Arizona spring-training, MLB and college ballparks. But no decision has been made regarding the launch of play, and it’s too early to say if any part of the 2020 regular season can be played at the home ballparks of teams.

The consumer class action lawsuit was filed in California on behalf of all persons and entities who purchased tickets for MLB games directly from teams, according to a press release from Milberg Phillips Grossman LLP, as well as all persons and entities who purchased tickets from ticket merchants that include Ticketmaster and StubHub. The complaint names as defendants Major League Baseball, each individual MLB club, and ticket resellers, such as StubHub and Ticketmaster.

You can read the full filing here.

“Fans are justified in crying foul over the league’s ticket refund policy,” said Milberg Partner Marc Grossman. “There would be no Major League Baseball without the fans. This is a time for MLB and other organizations to do right by the people who love the game, and have supported them for years.”

Ticket refunds are a hot topic in the sports/venues and events industries. When an event is canceled (say, as was the case in spring training), the ticket firms are usually quick to issue refunds or, in the case of third-party resellers, offer a 120-150 percent bonus on a future ticket buy if the funds remain with the reseller. But if an event is postponed, rescheduled or put on hold, the ticket firms hang onto the funds under the theory that the event is still pending, and that the transaction is still valid because there is a commitment to fulfill the terms of the original ticket purchase. The argument here is that there’s no way MLB teams will be able to pull off a full 81-game home season, so refunds on individual game tickets and season-ticket plans should be issued. The same goes for NBA and NHL teams that have not technically canceled the rest of their 2019-2020 regular-season games.

With daily news about the spread of the coronavirus impacting the sports-business and facilities industries, it’s more important than ever to stay up with the latest news in the venues industry. That’s why we launched a new Venues Digest newsletter focusing on coronavirus information across the ballparks, arenas, stadiums, theater and performing-arts worlds. For now it will appear daily, and for now it will be free of charge to industry professionals. Sign up here.

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