Secondary ticket service Seatwave sold almost 10,000 tickets to the Michael Jackson O2 arena concerts, according to CEO and founder Joe Cohen, and refunds are currently being processed.

The London-based service has offered guidance online to users who paid for Jackson tickets via Seatwave. The refund process involves a claim being filed by the user with Mondial Assistance, which provides Seatwave with insurance cover for the events listed on the site.

"I think it's probably the biggest refund program that's been initiated in this industry, if not ever than for a very long time," Cohen tells Billboard.biz. "I can't remember anything this big."

"We sold somewhere just under 10,000 tickets," he adds. "Most of them were just tickets but a few packages here and there. The average price was £244 [$400], the lowest price we sold a ticket for was £69 [$113], and the highest price was £1,856 [$3,049]."

Seatwave bears the cost of its insurance cover for its TicketCover system.

"TicketCover basically insures the ticket for a whole number of potential incurrences including transport breakdown, illness, if you are called to jury service, if the event is rescheduled for a date you can't attend, or if it's cancelled," says Cohen. "So this is something that we offer as an added bonus for every ticket that we sell."

Most sellers of Jackson tickets had not yet been paid by Seatwave, but it will seek repayment from any that had. Refunds for those who bought Jackson tickets via Seatwave are not dependant on the company getting those payments back from sellers.

Cohen says the previous biggest refund was an Amy Winehouse tour, cancelled mid-tour on health grounds in November 2007. "It was in the tens of thousands [of pounds] as opposed to the millions," he says. "There were no problems there - it's a very easy, simple procedure."

Cohen adds that he is confident that Seatwave will have no trouble dealing with what is a huge challenge for the secondary ticket sector.

"When we started this business we started it with the clear intent of making the secondary market a legitimate, reputable consumer-friendly industry," he tells Billboard.biz. "We were fortunate enough to decide to protect for this up front."

Viagogo was the official secondary ticket partner for the concerts and has pledged to return all money for the tens of thousands of tickets sold via an online system, which began two weeks ago. No sellers had been paid by Viagogo, who will simply return the money to those who had purchased tickets.

Although the law of contract relates to ticketing in the U.K., the situation with Jackson tickets has raised the issue of what obligations primary and secondary ticketing companies have to consumers under British law. The promoter's terms and conditions would likely be a major factor.

"There is no over-arching law specific to this area," says lawyer Andy Millmore, partner at London-based media and entertainment law firm Harbottle & Lewis. "There are two legal areas that might have an impact. There is the Unfair Contract Terms legislation, which is basically designed to protect consumers and individuals against stuff hidden in the small print. That is legislation that says there are certain contractual terms that won't be upheld against the consumer, if they go so far as to be unfair.

"The other legislation that protects consumers [regarding tickets] is that last year we had the Consumer Protection legislation brought in, which is very broad legislation primarily for unfair advertising but also unfair commercial practises. It could potentially have an impact if consumers have a position forced on to them that looks deeply unfair."

AEG Live offered a prompt refund process with the option of a souvenir ticket instead. But what if a promoter had in this instance put on an alternative concert, and ticket-holders were told they had to accept that instead of a refund?

"If it was Janet Jackson or reforming the Jackson Five or if it's a hologram, a promoter might say it's an acceptable alternative, if you assume their ticket terms say 'we can provide an alternative,'" adds Millmore. "I don't think it is. It seems to me putting on something by a completely different artist isn't a reasonable alternative."

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