Coronavirus: What are your rights for cancelled events in Germany?
The outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown has cancelled events of all sizes and shapes across Germany. What rights do you have to refunds, vouchers or new tickets?
Large public gatherings in Germany have been banned for more than two months due to the coronavirus outbreak, meaning tens of thousands of events have been cancelled across the country.
Large scale events are currently cancelled until at least August 31st, but the ban is likely to be extended longer.
The German government has put in place a set of protections put in place for ticket holders should their events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.
This article discusses government protections for consumers, but many event companies will have their own policies so be sure to check with event operators about their specific rules.
Germany’s coronavirus events law
On May 15th, Germany passed an amendment to the law surrounding refunds.
Unlike previously - where operators had to provide cash refunds when events were cancelled - the new law allows for event operators to provide consumers with vouchers for cancelled events.
The new law effectively suspends the right to reimbursement until further notice - and will also apply to tickets purchased prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The prerequisite is that the ticket was purchased before March 8th, 2020.
Oktoberfest in Munich in 2019. The event was cancelled this year. Photo: DPA
What kinds of tickets?
Almost any ticket type (for flights see below) is covered by the new law.
According to the German Consumer Centre “the very broad formulation of ‘all leisure activities’ basically means that all chargeable events will fall under the legal regulations”.
This includes concerts, festivals, theatre performances, readings, film screenings, sports competitions, museums, amusement parks, animal parks, swimming pools and sports studios.
The regulation also applies to ‘flat rate’ tickets, i.e. subscriptions for certain services.
Anything which applies primarily in a professional context - such as trade fairs, seminars and congresses - are exempt from the law.
What if I really don’t want a voucher?
Ticket holders who have their hearts set on a cash refund can get one if they can prove it is ‘unreasonable’ for them to receive a voucher on the basis of their personal circumstances.
An example provided by the German Consumer Centre is that you need the money to pay important living costs such as rent or bills.
Alternately, you can hold onto the voucher until the end of 2021 and request payment from the ticket seller.
If your flight has been cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown, you are entitled to a ticket at a later time or to a reimbursement of the cost of the flight.
Germany’s new events law does not apply to flights.
While airlines will in most cases attempt to offer vouchers rather than cash reimbursement, this is inconsistent with EU law.
EU law states that reimbursements in cash should be received no more than seven days of a request. Airlines who seek to offer vouchers instead can only do so with the written consent of the passenger.
According to the German Consumer Centre (Verbraucherzentrale), airlines are currently issuing vouchers to passengers in the hope that they are unfamiliar with EU law - or to bide more time in the hope that their voucher system will become law.
More information is provided here (in German).