Despite the misleading name of this emerging lawsuit, Drake isn't suing Coachella for facilitating sexual assault by Madonna or for the lackluster response to his headlining sets. In fact, this lawsuit has nothing to do with the musician Drake whatsoever. Drake vs. Coachella is a class action lawsuit accusing the festival of violating California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law. The accusation targets Coachella's layaway plan, which requires purchasers to forfeit all money applied to their ticket if they are more than 10 days late on a payment. Enter the plaintiff, Abigail Drake.
Drake (the woman, not the artist) purchased two tickets and a camping pass for weekend one of the 2015 festival through their layaway plan for $850. She proceeded to make four timely payments for a total of $617.90, but when her credit card was cancelled due to fraudulent charges, she exceeded Coachella's 10-day grace period. Coachella, which uses Front Gate Ticketing to handle their ticketing purchases, allegedly cancelled her order and informed her that due to lack of payment all money paid up to that point had been forfeited — all $617.90.
Coachella's website clearly states that "default on payments will result in cancellation of your order, loss of deposit, and all payments made prior to default. NO EXCEPTIONS." The disclaimer goes on to state that purchasers are expected mange their debit/credit card statements, and reiterates that if the grace period is exceeded, the order will be cancelled and money forfeited.
The terms, however brutal, are crystal clear. So technically Coachella is void of any legal wrongdoing, right? According to Drake's legal counsel, wrong. The lawsuit is claiming that Coachella is in direct violation of the Consumers Remedies Act, which protects consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices, along with the Unfair Competition Law, which is essentially meant to uphold good business principles. Drake's attorney, Brandon C. Fernald, is focusing on the forfeiture clause of the policy and points out that Coachella is presumably doubling their profits.
"Somebody's paid six or seven hundred dollars toward a ticket. They miss one payment at the end and [Coachella] not only doesn't give them a ticket, they take their seven hundred bucks," Fernald says over the phone. "Presumably, given that these are sold out events, I cannot imagine that the festival doesn't turn around and sell these tickets. Or at least give them away as a promo, something. So, I think they're going to be hard pressed to say that missing one payment cost them seven hundred dollars. We'll see."
Combing through online forums and Coachella threads regarding the layaway option reveals that Drake isn't the only person to have been the victim of credit card fraud and subsequently lose their tickets and their money. But there are also commenters from the threads who defend Coachella, saying that they received several emails alerting them to a missed payment. Some go as far as to specifically state that switching over their information was simple, and that customer service reps at Front Gate were pleasant.
So if Drake received warning of her cancellation, is she still the victim of bad business practices? According to Fernald, yes. "Our take is, it doesn't matter [if she received warning] because the policy is illegal. I can write up a policy and tell you this is what's going to happen, but if it's illegal under California law it's sort of irrelevant... If the policy is void under California law, it really doesn't matter if the person had notice of it."
Other major festivals including Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza also offer payment plans, largely to the appreciation of fans that can't afford to immediately drop $300 or more on a festival pass. Considering that Coachella's parent company Goldenvoice also owns Stagecoach, Firefly, FYF, Hangout Music Fest and more, this suit could potentially have a major impact on ticketing practices — for better or for worse.
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