Outrage over cancelled K-pop concert ticket refunds
She cannot even watch a movie on the weekend with $8.66.
This was K-pop fan April Ooi's reaction when she found out she was entitled to only a partial refund of $8.66 for the $368 ticket that she had bought directly from the organiser of the MBC Korean Music Wave In Singapore 2013 concert.
Her devastation when the Nov 16 concert was cancelled last November turned to anger when she received a letter about the refund last month.
The concert organiser, Fatfish Entertainment (Fatfish), a new player in the K-pop concert industry, was the first to start selling tickets, costing between $168 and $688, last October.
With a line-up boasting top K-pop acts like EXO, 2PM, 2AM, F.T. Island, SHINee, B.A.P, B1A4, Teen Top, Miss A, Sistar, Kara, 4Minute and IU, MBC Korean Music Wave was touted as the biggest K-pop gig to be held here.
The irony is that die-hard fans like Ms Ooi, a 29-year-old human resource executive who queued to buy the early bird tickets from Fatfish for the best seats, were the worst hit.
Those who bought their tickets later through Sistic received a full refund because the ticketing agent only pays the organiser weeks after the concert is held.
Those who bought through start-up ticketing agent SingTic received about 35 per cent of their money back as it had already paid part of the proceeds from the ticket sales to Fatfish.
Fatfish was later liquidated after filing for bankruptcy.
In the letter, Ms Ooi was told she would be paid the "final ordinary dividend of 2.3528 per centum of all admitted ordinary claims".
This means that those who bought the most expensive $688 tickets from Fatfish received about $16 back.
Ms Ooi, who has not collected "the pathetic sum", told The New Paper: "I feel like I have been scammed.
"I'm doubly pissed off because not only did I not get to watch the concert, but I am getting back only a pittance.
"I don't feel like collecting it because transport there (to the liquidator's) will cost me. Seriously, I can't even watch a movie on Saturday with $8.66."
Ms Ooi was also unhappy that she had to pay cash for her ticket because the ticketing staff for Fatfish said the Nets and credit card machines were not working.
"I went to queue at 7am when tickets were going on sale at 9am. I reached the front at 10am and was told the machines were not working," she said.
"So everyone was running around like mad chickens to withdraw cash.
"I wonder if Fatfish had wanted to save on the extra costs that it would have incurred if we had paid by Nets or credit card."
A 15-year-old student, who declined to be named, said she had saved up for three months for her $368 ticket, only to watch it all "go down the toilet".
She said: "Fatfish is so irresponsible. Don't they know that the bulk of K-pop fans are students who don't have much money?"
When contacted, Fatfish's liquidator, Stone Forest, said that out of Fatfish's remaining assets of $1.7 million, only $288,000 was left to distribute among ticket-holders after major creditors like Gardens By The Bay (concert venue), StarHub (advertiser) and Mitsubishi (sponsor) were paid.
Stone Forest's Abuthahir Abdul Gafoor told TNP: "There was only so much money left to pay the creditors as we couldn't recover sums that had already been paid for, like the Korean artists' pre-booking fees and their air tickets.
"My team met the ticket-holders who came to collect their refunds and we offered a listening ear as they just wanted to talk about their unhappiness."
Many irate fans have also taken their grievances online in hopes of getting back their money.
When Fatfish pulled out, other concert organisers tried to save the concert by offering to take over, but negotiations fell through.
Said Ms Ooi: "This is a good lesson learnt. Next time, I'll think twice before buying from ticketing agents and organisers that I've never heard of."
Procedures in place to protect ticket-holders
Mr Lim Biow Chuan
During a Parliament sitting in January, Mr Lim Biow Chuan (MP for Mountbatten) asked if the Government would consider regulating concerts and events to ensure that ticket charges paid by consumers are secured if the event is cancelled.
The then Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong replied that Sistic had in place a system where it would hold ticket sales revenue and pay organisers only after the concert. This is to ensure that they can refund customers in full in case of a cancellation.
He said: "For these reasons, there may not be a need to introduce new regulatory measures at this stage.
"Instead, the preferred approach is to push more on industry self-regulation and to raise consumer awareness."
Those who bought MBC Korean Music Wave In Singapore 2013 concert tickets through Sistic received full refunds plus the $3 booking fee per ticket between Nov 18 and 28 last year, just two weeks after the show was cancelled.
Sistic's marketing communications and channel development manager, Ms Marie Liow, said that apart from holding ticket sales proceeds, it has other measures in place to protect consumers.
Ms Liow told The New Paper: "We have built our knowledge and partnerships over the past 20 over years.
"We know nearly all event organisers and for those who are new to us, we take additional steps to ensure their legitimacy.
"And even with long-term partners, we have a number of requirements to protect ourselves and ticket-buyers.
"Even before tickets go on sale, we sign legal contracts, collect an administrative fee, obtain a copy of the NRIC of sole-proprietor promoters and require an agency letter for concerts.
"For new organisers, we have additional measures to evaluate their legitimacy. A standard procedure is that we double-check with the venue that an organiser claims to be holding the event at.
"All these measures protect everyone - us, promoters, artists and consumers."
Insurance is a must: Concert organisers
Other K-pop concert organisers here are speculating that Fatfish Entertainment had likely not bought insurance for event cancellation, which they said was a "big mistake".
An experienced organiser said he would always make sure to buy insurance first before paying the pre-booking fee for the artists.
He said: "For a solo K-pop singer, I paid $7,300 for event cancellation insurance.
"In the event the concert is cancelled, I would have got back $265,000 from the insurance.
"In my case, the money would have probably covered more than 50 per cent of the ticket refund."
But he said that the insurance premium for the MBC Korean Music Wave would have cost a lot more as it had more than 10 acts.