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What you need to know before requesting a refund for concert tickets

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Concerts, theatre, opera, ballet, and sporting events are being cancelled or postponed under strict new social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus, so where does that leave you if you've already paid for tickets?

Consumers should be offered refunds, credit notes or vouchers in most circumstances, according to advice released this week by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

However, if the event is cancelled because of government restrictions consumer rights may be affected.

are you entitled to a refund if an event is cancelled due to the coronavirus?
The Sydney Opera House was illuminated as part of Vivid Sydney Light Festival last year. Vivid Sydney is one of a long list of events cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Don Arno

ACCC chair Rod Sims says he encourages all businesses to treat consumers fairly and compassionately during this time.

However, if a consumer chooses not to attend an event that is still going ahead, this may be treated as a "change of mind" and the consumers' rights to refunds will depend on the terms and conditions.

With entertainers, production and venue staff out of work, some theatre companies are asking patrons to consider their options before asking for a refund.

The Sydney Opera House has asked patrons for support to ensure they will remain viable after the coronavirus crisis.

"As Australia's largest arts employer with more than 1000 employees, plus contractors and suppliers, this strength is also our biggest challenge through the COVID-19 crisis," a note to ticket holders said on Monday.

"You are of course entitled to a refund. But as a supporter of Opera Australia, we're asking if you would please consider exchanging your ticket for a performance later in the year; converting it to a gift voucher; or converting it to a tax-deductible donation to the company if you're in a position to do so."

Belvoir Theatre in Sydney's Surry Hills has cancelled shows and is offering refunds or credits, or allowing patrons to make a donation of their ticket purchase price.

A website which was created in the aftermath of the closures to determine the lost income of performers, Ilostmygig.net.au, found that $25 million of losses were registered in just 24 hours, with the latest tally topping $100 million, with 380,000 jobs impacted and 65,000 events cancelled.

Actor Fiona Press said she will be unlikely to work again before the end of the year.

"I'm a jobbing actor and we can't work from home," she says.

"When you think about it, entertainers were the first to put their hands up to help by donating time, talent and marquee value to raise money for bushfire aid, and now we're invisible."

Many actors, who aren't working, support themselves through second jobs in theatre or in hospitality, Press says, so they will be hit doubly hard.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Sydney Royal Easter Show, Vivid Sydney,  and the Newcastle and Sydney Writers Festivals are among a long list of cancelled events.

Comedy Festival spokesperson Sonia Rendigs says their event is the third largest comedy festival in the world after Edinburgh and Montreal, with 700 listings for 700 acts.

"That is massive; based on economics the festival generates as much as the Australian Open," she says.

"It's approximately the same revenue generator except the flow on effect is much larger with small bars and restaurants."

While refunds will be available, "a lot of Australians have said 'we don't want the money back we want to know the money is going to the comedian' and some people say they want 50% or want to give $5 to the comedian", Rendigs says.

Festival organisers are currently working on a way to process these requests.

International acts such as The Killers, due to tour in November, have postponed releasing tickets for sale until later this year.  The band says they will be provide a portion of ticket income to organisations that support service industry staff in each tour city.

We're cutting through the confusion to help you manage your money during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more on how COVID-19 could affect your job, budget, super and investments.

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Julia Newbould is a financial writer and commentator with a background in journalism. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance, which will be out in April. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.
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