Diehard Coachella fans and pesky scalpers will be scrambling to snag their share of pre-sale tickets this week, which are set to go on sale Thursday at 11:00 a.m. PST. However, savvy shoppers adept at reading the fine print will notice a new policy in effect for this year's layaway plan. The new approach is considerably less stringent than in past years, and is arguably the result of an emerging class action lawsuit against Coachella, their parent company Goldenvoice, and their ticketing distributor Front Gate.
The new layaway policy states that if a purchaser misses a payment and exceeds the 10-day grace period, Coachella will cancel their ticket order and issue a $50 restocking fee. This process is drastically different from previous years, when organizers clearly stated that if a person using the payment plan exceeds the grace period, they not only lose their tickets, they forfeit all money applied toward the order up to that point.
Abigail Drake is at the forefront of the lawsuit that sparked the shift in this year's policy. The complaint alleges that the music and arts festival's previous payment plan is in violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law, and was filed by Drake via the Fernald Law Group on April 23.
How is the revered music festival in violation of these acts that are meant to uphold fair business practices? According to Drake and her counsel, Coachella is unfairly profiting off of defaulted tickets. Drake and her attorney, Brandon Fernald, are claiming that Coachella absorbs the funds on cancelled orders and then sells the defaulted tickets, essentially doubling their profits. This is where Fernald argues that Coachella is in violation of both policies.
"The policy that they had, even though they disclosed it, was illegal," Fernald says. "You cannot, under California law, charge a penalty that has no relation to your actual damage as some sort of default."
The updated language of this year's layaway plan does not include a direct retraction of the former policy, nor does it state what happens to a purchaser's applied funds once their order is cancelled. However, Fernald feels that the change in verbiage is a strong indicator that the only loss the purchaser will suffer is the restocking fee, and views the $50 as a reasonable amount to offset the loss of a defaulted payment.
"At the most what they should legitimately be able to charge is some sort of administrative fee or cost associated with having to put that ticket back into a pool and resell it," the Los Angeles based attorney says. "Some sort of fee that is commensurate with their damage. And based on the new policy, that's essentially what they've done… It has a much greater chance of being upheld under California law."
Fernald shares that he's received an incredible response from people with similar experiences to Drake's, and that both Front Gate and Goldenvoice are due to respond to the lawsuit next week. Once the pleadings are closed, the case will move forward and more details regarding the case will emerge.
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