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If events are canceled due to Corona: your rights

A change in the law came into force on May 20th for events that are canceled or postponed due to the corona pandemic. In certain constellations, consumers now have to accept vouchers when in doubt. A right to Reimbursement of costs - as previously enshrined in law - is thus exposed.

The new law applies retrospectively for all Event tickets purchased before March 8, 2020: If such an event is canceled and you have not yet received your money back from the organizer and have not yet accepted any other solution, the organizers can issue you a voucher without your consent. For tickets purchased after March 8, 2020, the general rules outlined in this article apply.

The consumer advice centers continue to criticize the voucher solution: Consumers can and should gladly accept vouchers in order to support providers and artists who have been particularly hard hit by the crisis. But that has to be done on a voluntary basis. Because many consumers are currently suffering from the consequences of the pandemic. Many people need their own money and they still have to be free to decide what to spend it on.

The fact that the law applies retrospectively is also an unusual process and raises additional concerns as to whether this is a proportionate interference with applicable rights.

You can find all of our consumer information on Corona on our overview page on the subject.

What happens to my card for an upcoming event?

Such an event may no longer take place with appropriate contact blocks. If in doubt, ask your state government or your local authority whether the relevant regulations are in force. Most leisure events in Germany have been prohibited since November 2020. Loosening may occur depending on the local incidence.

If an event cannot be carried out as planned due to the currently applicable Corona Protection Ordinance, the following applies: The implementation has become legally impossible. You can therefore return the ticket and reclaim the entry price and advance booking fees.

Due to the change in the law for Corona times, organizers can in turn refuse this and insist on a voucher that you get instead of your money. You can only have this voucher paid out in cash after the end of 2021 if you have not redeemed it by then. This may be possible, for example, if you cannot find a desired event with the organizer and therefore cannot or do not want to use your voucher. Please note that this only applies to tickets purchased before March 8, 2020 have acquired. For cards bought afterwards, the general rules outlined in this article apply.

What types of events and leisure facilities are affected by the voucher solution?

The regulation applies to music, cultural, sports or other leisure events that could not or could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prerequisite is that the cards Purchased before March 8, 2020 have been. In our view, this retroactive effect is problematic. Our constitution guarantees citizens that they can rely on the current legal situation. Among other things, the board of directors of the NRW consumer center is urging the federal government to observe the constitutional principle known as the non-retroactivity ban and to maintain proportionality in the curtailment of customer rights.

The change in the law specifies Concerts, festivals, theater performances, readings, film screenings or sports competitions. As recreational facilities are Museums, amusement parks, zoos, swimming pools or sports studios listed. Due to the very broad formulation of "other leisure activities", however, it is to be expected that almost all chargeable events will fall under the statutory regulation.

The only exceptions are those that take place in a professional context, such as advanced training courses and seminars, or primarily address a specialist audience, such as trade fairs and congresses.

Does the new regulation also apply to fitness studios, season tickets and events with multiple dates?

Yes, the law also expressly includes events or subscriptions that take place on several dates, such as Music, language or sports courses. That also expressly includes ongoing contracts with fitness studios insofar as contributions have already been paid in advance. The regulation also applies to Monthly, seasonal or annual tickets as well as for "season tickets"which entitle them to attend all home games of a sports club, for example.

Are there any exceptions to the obligation to accept a voucher?

Yes, you can request the operator or event organizer to pay out the voucher value if the voucher solution is unreasonable for you in view of your personal circumstances.

This is conceivable, for example, if you could prove that you are currently unable to pay vital living expenses such as rent or energy bills without paying out the voucher value.

What exactly do I get as a voucher / what can I use it for?

You will not automatically receive a voucher. You must ask the organizers to reimburse the amount you paid. You can do this for tickets that before March 8, 2020 refuse and offer you a voucher instead. You will receive a so-called "voucher". This applies to the amount that you paid for the entrance fee and, if applicable, the advance booking fees and the shipping costs. In the case of monthly, annual, seasonal or season tickets, the amount of the voucher is calculated proportionally to the value of the non-usable part.

Some organizers require that you return the original tickets to the organizer before receiving your voucher. It should be ensured that the original tickets by registered mail sent so that you have proof.

You should pay the amount on the voucher with organizer or the organizer of the canceled event can freely use it for their offers and, for example, buy a ticket for another concert / event with the voucher.

  • If the amount on the voucher is higher than the cost of another event that you have chosen, you keep the difference as a credit. Make sure that your voucher is adjusted or that you receive a new one.
  • If the new event is more expensive than the original, you will have to pay the additional costs in addition to the voucher.

Attention: Even according to the new legal situation, it is not permissible for the organizers to put you off to a later date for the original event (so-called "voucher in kind"). You do not have to accept such vouchers for later entry at a date that you may not be able to. You are entitled to a voucher that you can use as you wish, almost like money from the organizer.

What if I don't redeem the voucher?

If you have not redeemed the voucher by the end of 2021, you can then request that the value of the voucher be paid out.

Who bears the risk of bankruptcy?

With the change in the law, the risk of bankruptcy for tickets bought before March 8, 2020 is completely passed on to consumers. The vouchers are not secured. Means: Should organizers go bankrupt in between, consumers will probably be left with the costs.

In addition, they bear the risk of price increases. An example: If the ticket price for the catch-up date for a concert rises because the rent for the venue is higher, for example, the consumers should bear the additional costs.

The consumer advice centers have criticized both of the new voucher solution.

How should the voucher be handed out?

Concert organizers often hand over the re-processing of the tickets to be reimbursed to the advance booking offices. So feel free to contact the place where you bought the ticket first. However, if there is no contact person available for you or if the reimbursement is refused, you must contact the organizers directly (the agency / company that is on the card).

The background: As a rule, that not the band or the box office or online retailer: in Your: e contractual partner: in is, but rather the Organizer or the organizers. This means that they are often your most important contacts when you want your money back.

Operators or organizers must ensure that you receive the voucher. For example, they can be handed out personally at a ticket sales point or sent by letter or email. However, you may not incur any costs for issuing or sending the voucher. The voucher must also show that the owner of the voucher can request the payment of the value if the exhibition is not reasonable for them or they do not redeem the voucher by December 31, 2021.

The repayment claims from canceled events become statute-barred beyond the voucher solution, i.e. within 3 years. For events that were canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus, you can assert claims until December 31, 2023. For events that are canceled in 2021, the limitation period runs until December 31, 2024.

How should you act now?

The voucher solution law came into force on May 20, 2020. If you haven't paid for the event, you don't have to pay now if the event is canceled. Got the tickets before March 8, 2020 Purchased and already paid for, organizers can issue a voucher instead of a cash refund. Request the organizers to reimburse the ticket price, preferably in writing.

Your first point of contact for receiving the voucher is the organizer and not the advance booking office. However, this is often commissioned by the organizer to reverse the transaction.

Can I voluntarily return tickets for major events if I am afraid of becoming infected?

Of course, you can also return tickets for events that have not yet been prohibited. Cultural events are currently prohibited. However, given the current pandemic situation, it is very likely that this will be extended. If your event is based on these dates and it has not yet been canceled by the organizer, you will not get the money for tickets back if you return the tickets yourself. Because fear of a virus is no reason to withdraw from an existing contract.

Admission ticket insurances also only step in if you self are ill and therefore cannot take part in an event. However, fear of infection is not enough.

Rather, you are then dependent on the goodwill of the organizers. You are not entitled to a refund, but you can of course ask for it.

What if an event is postponed, but I can't / don't want to on the replacement date?

In principle, you do not have to postpone a major event. In particular, if you do not have time on the new date, you can return the ticket and reclaim the entry price and, if applicable, the advance booking fees and the shipping costs.

The prerequisite, however, is that an appointment has been made at all, i.e. the event should take place on a specified date. Something different can therefore apply if, for example, the tickets were sold without an event date or only a certain period or even several alternative dates were mentioned.

If a specific date has been agreed, it does not matter for what reason the event did not take place on the agreed original date or whether the organizer is to blame for this.

Any clauses in the terms and conditions that only permit the return of the ticket in the event of a general cancellation are, in our opinion, ineffective.

If your event has been postponed, you can use our sample letter to withdraw from the contract and request a refund of the purchase price. Instead of reimbursement, the organizer can also issue you a voucher if the ticket before March 8, 2020 was acquired. You have to accept this due to the voucher solution that has come into force.

What about season tickets, e.g. for football matches, when individual games take place without an audience?

With season tickets it is also possible to determine the price of the individual event. In our opinion, owners of season tickets can therefore also claim the pro rata price for the canceled events back, even if the terms and conditions state otherwise.

Many clubs have agreed to reimburse ticket prices. Please inform yourself about this on the websites of the clubs.

The new voucher law also includes such events. If the organizers insist on this, you must accept a voucher instead of an immediate refund of the money (see also above).

What about the cost of a booked hotel room?

It depends on whether you have booked a package tour - i.e. whether you have bought the ticket and hotel together from the provider. If the event is canceled, you can withdraw from the entire trip free of charge.

However, if there are separate bookings, then the legal situation is more complicated.

We have summarized details about traveling in times of Corona in a separate article.

What applies to my ticket with Deutsche Bahn?

Deutsche Bahn excludes cancellation of saver fare and super saver fare tickets. Because of the corona pandemic, the company had lifted the train connection for these tickets when they before March 13, 2020 were bought. They could be used flexibly until October 30, 2020. A refund of tickets that have not been used by October 31, 2020 is not possible, according to Deutsche Bahn.

You can read more about this in our article on travel questions in Corona times.

This content was created by the joint editorial team in cooperation with the consumer centers North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria for the network of consumer centers in Germany.