Lex Voucher for Culture - An Alternative to Refunds for Cancelled Cultural Events
On 19 May 2020, an Act On certain measures to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus epidemic known as SARS CoV-2 on cultural events (Act No 247/2020 Coll, the “Act” ), entered into force. Not only for the field of tourism, but also for the field of culture, the possibility of the organizer to issue a voucher for a cultural event instead of refunding the entrance ticket fee was introduced.
On March 10, 2020, an extraordinary measure of the Ministry of Health imposed a ban on organizing cultural events with the participation of more than 100 people. On 12 March 2020, the Government of the Czech Republic declared a state of emergency and decided to adopt Crisis Measure No. 199, by which it repealed the said extraordinary measure of the Ministry of Health with effect from 13 March 2020. The reason was the extension and at the same time tightening of the ban on holding cultural events, among others, which the government conditioned with the presence of a maximum of thirty people. This was followed by tightening and regulation by other measures, with the first dismantling taking place only on 25 May 2020, when extraordinary measures of the Ministry of Health re-authorized cultural events with the participation of up to 300 people and set the conditions under which they can take place. The complete removal of the ban and restriction is not yet expected. This was also the reason for the adoption of the Act initiated by the Ministry of Culture, which will apply to cultural festivals, parades and similar cultural events ("cultural events") with an expected date until 31 October 2020, that were/arerepealed due to the Covid pandemic.
The Act stipulates a protection period for which the organizers of cultural events ("Organizer") are have their obligation to refund the entrance ticket fee for a cultural event already paid by the customer or a third party before the Act enters into force deferred. According to the explanatory memorandum, not only tickets for individual cultural events are considered admission fees, but also accreditations for shows and festivals entitling the buyer to enter the entire festival program or part of it. The protection period begins on the day of the Organizer's announcement of the cancellation of the cultural event through the mass media and ends on 31 October 2021, unless it ends earlier according to the Act (as will be stated below).
Due to the fact that for tickets sold in advance the Organizer usually does not know a specific customer and has no contact with him, the Act chose the form of issuing a voucher for a cultural event ("Voucher")based on the customer's request. The Customer is therefore entitled to request the Organizer to issue a Voucher ("Voucher") by 31 March 2021 in the event of cancellation of the cultural event. The Act obliges the Organizer to issue a Voucher at least in the value of the paid entrance fee. The voucher is valid for the duration of the protection period and, among other things, contains the amount of money corresponding at least to the value of the paid entrance fee. The organizer is obliged to offer the customer a replacement cultural event on the basis of the Voucher and for the duration of the protection period. In the event of a difference in the price of the entrance fee compared to the original contract, the Organizer may not require the customer to pay this difference in excess of the Voucher.
The protection periodmay end earlierin situations provided by law. These will be situations where the Organizer has not issued a Voucher to the customer within 1 month of the customer's request or if the Organizer has not offered the customer a replacement cultural event with a deadline of 31 October 2021 within 6 months of issuing the Voucher.
The protection period does not apply in the case of particularly vulnerable customer groups stipulated by law. By law, these persons have the opportunity to insist on the return of the paid entrance fee for the given cultural event. Among the particularly vulnerable groups of customers, the Act includes, among others, persons with disabilities, persons registered with the employment office as job seekers or single parents caring for dependent children.
The law obliges the Organizer, based on the customer's request, to return all paid payments for the given cultural event no later than 14 days from the end of the protection period. For reasons of legal certainty, the Act contains provisions on the fulfillment of the obligation to return the entrance fee by using the Voucher to pay the entrance fee for an alternative cultural event. The organizer is also obliged to inform the customer in a clear, comprehensible and distinct way about his rights arising from the Act.
According to the explanatory memorandum, the observed goal of the Act is to maintain a balance between the legitimate interests of entrepreneurs in this area and customers. In connection with the aim of this legislation, the explanatory memorandum also mentions averting the threat of mass bankruptcies of individual organizers of cultural events, which lack liquid funds due to the effects of the pandemic. Only time will tell whether the purpose of the Act will be fulfilled.