Cancelled events: ticket refunds?

Cancelled events: ticket refunds?
Photo: CesareAndreaFerrari/

In the past months, many events including concerts, sports competitions, festivals, plays and musicals, have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the related measures taken by the Belgian government. Although the latest government announcements indicate that some events will be allowed again as of 1st July 2020, other cancellation or postponement decisions could happen in the coming weeks. So, what are the rules regarding ticket refunds?


Cancellation due to coronavirus

The Belgian government has taken special measures regarding the cancellation of events due to the coronavirus crisis to prevent organisers from encountering cash flow problems. The government’s measures, as set out in its Ministerial decree of 19 March 2020 and amended by the Ministerial decree of 7 April 2020, are limited in time – extended until 20 September 2020 by the Council of Ministers of 6 June 2020 - and strictly related to the coronavirus crisis.

Under the following 6 conditions, an organiser is entitled to issue a ticket holder with a voucher for the value of the amount paid to purchase the ticket:

  1. an event having the same essential characteristics is subsequently organised in the same place or in the vicinity of the original location;
  2. the event is reorganised within two years of the date of the original event;
  3. the voucher represents the total value of the amount paid for the original ticket;
  4. no cost will be charged to the ticket holder for issuing the voucher;
  5. the voucher explicitly states that it has been issued as a result of the coronavirus crisis;
  6. no supplement may be requested from the voucher holder for attending the new event.

The voucher may also grant the right to purchase other products from its issuer during the two-year period following the date of the original event.

In the following cases, the ticket holder is entitled to a refund:

  1. when he/she can prove that he/she is unable to attend the event on the new date. A legitimate reason why it would be impossible to attend the event in 2021 or 2022 could include a wedding, living outside Belgium or a booked holiday.
  2. when the event is not reorganised under the 6 conditions above. Then the organiser must reimburse the ticket/voucher holder before 20 December 2020, provided that the applicability of the Ministerial decree is not extended beyond 20 September 2020.
  3. when the organiser decides to reimburse ticket holders and not issue a voucher.

If the ticket holder has only made a down payment, then he/she is entitled to a refund or an exchange voucher for the value of the down payment.

If an event scheduled in the next few weeks or months has not yet been officially cancelled, then ticket holders must pay the balance of the ticket price as provided for in the terms and conditions of sale.


Cancellation not due to coronavirus

If the event is cancelled for reasons other than the coronavirus crisis, for example because there are not enough tickets sold, because the artist is unable to perform or for security reasons, then the rules described above do not apply.

In this case, the organiser will have to reimburse the ticket holders. It is essential to check the refund policy set out in the ticket vendor's general terms and conditions, in particular regarding the deadlines for reimbursement or the procedures for returning tickets.

When the event is only postponed, the tickets remain in principle valid for the new date. The ticket holder can request a refund of the ticket if the new date does not accommodate him/her. Please note that the resale of tickets is strictly regulated under Belgian law.

Do the special rules apply if the cancellation is indirectly related to the coronavirus? For example, if the event can take place but the organiser has to cancel it because he/she becomes bankrupt as a result of the coronavirus crisis. According to the Ministerial decree, the answer is no.


Legal references:

- Ministerial decree of 19 March 2020 on private and public activities of a cultural, social, festive, folkloric, sports and recreational nature.

- Ministerial decree of 7 April 2020 amending the Ministerial decree of 19 March 2020 on private and public activities of a cultural, social, festive, folkloric, sporting and recreational nature.

- Law of 30 July 2013 relating to the resale of event access tickets.


Mathieu Maniet


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