Fans Sue Major League Baseball for a Refund on Tickets
Most Americans view baseball season starting in any format as the sign that the country is starting to get back to normal after the COVID-19 crisis. However, even the most optimistic forecasts do not have baseball teams returning to their home cities anytime soon. As such, games will be cancelled. However, many fans have already spent the money on season tickets and have been having trouble getting their money back. Fans are now filing lawsuits against teams and ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster and StubHub to try to get a full refund for the purchase price of their tickets.
In March 2020, Major League Baseball sent its players home from spring training and postponed the start of the season. The understanding was that Opening Day would be delayed by at least a month. As the gravity of the situation has become clear, it is apparent that the beginning of the season will be delayed by more than a month. Fans and teams understand that a 162-game season is impossible.
Games in Arizona Still Mean Cancelled Games
Moreover, all plans that contemplate the start of the season have baseball games occurring in Arizona or Florida without fans in attendance. It is becoming more apparent that baseball may not even return to its cities for the entire 2020 season. Social distancing guidelines may prohibit large crowds for the entire baseball season.
However, baseball teams have not acknowledged the fact that the season will be shortened and games will not be held. Major League Baseball has been understandably silent about prospects for the season since they do not yet know when the pandemic will be brought under control. However, there have been hundreds of postponed games at this point that in all likelihood will be cancelled. The teams still have the money for those tickets.
The usual rule is that baseball teams offer their fans a makeup date when a game has been postponed. Teams do not usually give refunds. If the fans cannot make the rescheduled date after a postponement, they are out the money that they spent on the ticket. Here, because the events will likely be permanently cancelled, there may be a different rule. However, the teams are not saying and fans have been left in the dark.
For now, fans have spent tens of millions of dollars on baseball tickets and they want their money back. Many of these fans have lost jobs and experienced financial hardships and need to have their money returned. Nonetheless, baseball teams continue to hold this money without any indication of what may happen with the games and whether fans can get a refund.
Major League Baseball has not yet said anything that would indicate that it is refusing to give the money back. They will likely make a decision on this when they make an announcement about the status of the 2020 season. They could give fans credit for 2021 tickets, although it would be difficult to treat a game as if it were postponed for a year, especially if games are being played in the meantime in Arizona and Florida.
The Fans Just Want Their Money Back....Plus Interest
The lawsuit was filed in California, and it seeks class-action status on behalf of all fans who have purchased MLB tickets for the 2020 season. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction that would declare that MLB must give fans a refund for these tickets. Not only are they requesting a refund, but the plaintiffs are also asking for interest on the money that teams are currently holding. The plaintiffs accuse MLB and all 30 teams of conspiring to keep fans' money.
From MLB's vantage point, it may premature to declare anything because they simply do not know anything at this point. They have not made any final decisions. In the meantime, the game is in financial duress as it is a multi-billion dollar business without any revenues right now. The teams are still paying their employees and are negotiating with the MLBPA the details of salary reductions. Nonetheless, MLB is risking a public relations debacle with fans at a time when there is already speculation about the declining popularity of the game.
At some point, we will hear the magic words "Play Ball." However, when that happens, it is likely to be accompanied by a multitude of lawsuits about the economics of the cancellation of hundreds of games.
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