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Reading and Leeds Festival line-up change leaves fans demanding refunds after Rage Against The Machine pulls out – your rights

Hundreds of music fans are demanding refunds on tickets they bought, after a last-minute change to the headline act at Reading and Leeds Festivals. Below we explain your rights if you no longer want to go.

Metal band Rage Against The Machine (RATM) was due to perform as the headline act at Leeds on Friday 26 August and Reading on Sunday 28 August, but announced last week that it was pulling out of both events. It's been replaced by pop rock band The 1975 – a substitution some fans are very unhappy about.  

For more on the legal protections you have when things go wrong with goods and services you've bought, see our Consumer rights guide.

First complain to Ticketmaster and request a refund

Festival Republic, which runs Reading and Leeds Festivals, and Ticketmaster, which was the only authorised ticket seller for the events, have not responded to our requests for clarification on whether refunds will be issued, but we'll update this story if they do. 
However, in the meantime you can request a refund from Ticketmaster by locating your order in your online account and then selecting "Need help with this order?".

There's no guarantee this will work, but we've seen at least one instance where a ticket refund was issued "as a gesture of goodwill" – so it's worth a try. Alternatively, you may want to consider reselling your ticket – see below for more info.

Unfortunately, it's not clear if Reading and Leeds are legally required to give refunds in these circumstances. That's because the festivals are multi-performer events and, as with all such events, the exact line-up is subject to change – though fans argue that replacing RATM with The 1975 is a "substantial" change, and therefore refunds should be given. 

The official Leeds Festival website did previously suggest refunds might be due in such cases (though it's unclear if the Reading Festival website previously said the same):

That page was taken down yesterday (Monday 15 August), but an archived copy is still available via Google search.

If Ticketmaster won't budge, it's worth asking if your card provider will refund you – but there are no guarantees

Under the 'chargeback' rules for debit and credit cards, you can dispute a transaction with your card provider where you didn't get the goods or services you paid for and the merchant refuses to refund you.

Similar legal protection exists for credit card purchases over £100 under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act but we've focused on chargeback here, as many tickets were under £100 and so wouldn't be covered by Section 75 anyway. Plus, we're also checking if purchasing via a third party (Ticketmaster) would break the Section 75 required supplier-creditor link (this doesn't apply to chargeback).

The problem is that, for chargeback to work, you normally have to show there's been a breach of contract – and it's not clear if that's the case here, because both of the festivals are still going ahead with lots of other artists performing. In addition, the festival organisers may dispute your claim, so it's not guaranteed to work. 

For full info on getting a refund via your debit or credit card provider, see our Chargeback and Section 75 guides.

Ultimately, only a court can determine if you're legally entitled to a refund 

When asked, regulator the Competition and Markets Authority told us it can't comment on specific cases. However, it did say that, in general, ticket terms and conditions should be "fair".

Only a court can ultimately decide whether or not a specific set of terms is fair – but the watchdog did note that, where terms are vague or ambiguous, the law requires them to be interpreted and applied in a way that's most favourable to the consumer.

Gary Rycroft, a solicitor and consumer rights law expert at Joseph A Jones & Co LLP, told us that those who have bought a day ticket just to see RATM's performance would have a "compelling argument" for a full refund. That's because, in his view, swapping RATM for The 1975 is a "material change" – and any terms seeking to exclude a refund for a material change are inherently unfair and therefore unenforceable.

Mr Rycroft added that it would help your argument if you can show that you relied on advertising highlighting RATM or if you can show that RATM headlining was the main reason you bought a ticket – for example, if you'd posted on social media saying "Can't wait to go to Leeds to see RATM", that could be evidence that the metal band was a key driver behind your decision to buy a ticket.

If you have a weekend ticket, your case for a full refund is likely to be weaker, as you were probably expecting to see a range of bands and music genres across the whole festival – but it'll depend on your specific circumstances.

In any event, make sure you're confident you've got a case before you start a small claims court case as you'll have to pay certain fees if you lose. See our Small claims court guide for full info. 

Struggling to get a refund? Consider selling your ticket

If you're struggling to get a refund, another option you may want to consider is reselling your tickets via Ticketmaster's 'Fan-to-Fan Ticket Exchange', which you can do up to five working days before the start of the event.

But be warned: this will likely mean losing a portion of the ticket price you paid. In addition, if you resell your tickets but later find you could've gotten a full refund, you may not have any way to recover the difference.

'Missed event' insurance won't cover you not wanting to go

Ticketmaster offers missed event insurance when you buy tickets online. However, even if you took this out when you booked, it won't cover you in this case. That's because it's only designed to pay out if you can't make it to the event for one of a number of specific reasons – for example, serious illness or injury, jury service or being made redundant from your job.

Not wanting to go, even if it's because of a big change to the event, isn't one of the listed reasons for refunds and wouldn't be covered.

Fans voice their frustration: 'It's a joke'

A petition has been launched calling for refunds, which has so far attracted over 500 signatures. And we've seen dozens of complaints on Twitter from disappointed ticket holders. Here's a selection:

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