ACE Universe, the top-of-the-muffin comic convention company begun by Wizard World founders Stephen and Gareb Shamus, has filed paperwork suing Growtix, the company who provided the ticketing services and event management software to process ticket sales, for not refunding tickets after their March ACE Universe Boston show was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Guests were to include Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth, and plenty of people bought tickets that included meet-and-greets with the stars, often costing multiple-hundreds of dollars.
THR reports that ACE Universe is suing GrowTix for breach of contract and fraud, accusing them of "stealing millions of dollars" of customer refunds, that ACE gave GrowTix $680,000 to facilitate refunds only to be told that this wouldn't happen.That the two companies had an agreement with each other covering the processing of refunds in the event of cancellation. And that this was triggered by a force majeure provision when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency, prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people. And the agreed plan was for customers to be refunded within 30 days of the announcement. On March 11th, Ace posted on its Facebook page,
To our valued fans, friends, and partners,
ACE Comic Con is an extended family. We feel like we know each one of you personally, and as much as we make you feel welcome into our lives a few times a year, you have been gracious in return. Yesterday, a State of Emergency was called in Massachusetts, and after many hours of consultation with the BCEC, a city owned facility, it was determined that running the event at its regularly scheduled date/time is not possible due to "force majeure." We are working with the BCEC to reschedule the event, and we will do our best to bring ACE Comic Con Northeast back to Boston Strong!
We feel for anyone and everyone affected by the COVID-19 virus. Stakeholders in events like these include the fans, hotel employees, airline workers, city and state officials, security firms, car services, caterers, union workers and hundreds of hundreds of workers that put months and months of sweat and hard work into pulling these events off, our own staff included. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy, and to those already ill, we wish a speedy recovery.
Due to the volume, we expect you will receive your full refund within 30 days. We appreciate your patience and understanding. ACE Comic Con remains committed to its next event scheduled at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on October 16-18, 2020. As we have done in the past, the goal is to provide you the greatest event ever, run by people who are as passionate about you! At ACE, you don't just meet your heroes, you meet your superheroes! And we want to provide you with the absolute best experience you've come to enjoy. Please be thoughtful and understanding when posting on social media. Kindness in these times is invaluable.
Thank you and see you in October!
But less than a week later, ACE states that it received a letter from the chief of Patron Technologies, owners of GrowTix "advising it that it was not only withholding the money transferred to it for refunds, but was also demanding more money from ACE in regards to its own fees", stating in the lawsuit that "Patron sought to attach and withdraw $2.3 million from ACE bank accounts in the middle of the night", though this was prevented And that GrowTix is "the losses to ACE, due to Defendants' improper conduct, will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper transactional fees, and even more, much greater harm to its reputation with the inevitable failure to meet its refund obligations." Ace has now released the following to customers, saying,
Dear ACE fans, friends and family,
ACE has always strived to give the fans an exceptional experience and will always fight for them. As many of you know by now, ACE filed a lawsuit in federal court to maintain and protect these values. While the Company cannot comment on any active litigation, we will continue to maintain our steadfast commitment to the fans and will always have their backs.
Regarding refunds to ACE Northeast, General Admission tickets have already begun being refunded from Universe without concern, and those will continue to process as planned in their entirety over the next couple of weeks. ACE is working diligently to ensure that every one of its customers gets a full refund in the wake of the event's shutdown by the government due to the coronavirus.
Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.
UPDATE: GrowTix's parent company Patron has now commented on the allegations to THR, with VP of marketing saying that they "processed transactions worth over $2.9million, which was paid to ACE Universe over a period of several months – as the transactions occurred – prior to the event's cancellation." That ACE provided $680K for limited refunds as a result of specific changes in programming before the entire cancellation of the event but that didn't cover all the money that would be needed for full refunds. "After repeated attempts to find a fair method to help ACE pay out refunds to their customers over time from the funds ACE were already paid and to allow them to manage their cash flow in the process, it became clear that ACE had no intention of willingly supplying the funds Growtix had passed along to them in order to compensate ACE's customers. Therefore, in order to attempt to help the fans receive their refunds in the time frame ACE had promised them, and as per the specific terms in the contract between the two entities, Growtix made requests to transfer the remaining money… from ACE's bank account so Growtix could process ACE's customers' refunds. Growtix followed the exact terms of the contract and was doing everything they could to help fans receive the treatment they expected and deserved."
Looks like it will be down to the courts to decide… but the public are making their own opinions known.
I can't believe I've been sitting here this whole time telling myself it's going to be fine cause I'm going to get my money back from ace so I can use it to pay my bills just to find out that growtix committed f-cking fraud and now we all gotta sue. pic.twitter.com/kbAZukWFP2
— 🌻(they/them) (@nlghtlovers) March 25, 2020
I had to make she only asked me WHO the autograph was for which was strange
( she didn't ask who the photos were for )
and I said "…Tom Hiddleston.." my stomach hurt so bad😭 just want to forget all of this.
— ʟᴏᴋɪ ғʀɪɢɢᴀsᴏɴ (@BetrayedBrother) March 25, 2020
Hey @ACEcomiccon how do I go about receiving the rest of my refunds since you're in the middle of a lawsuit with GrowTix?
— MikeyLaFraah89 (@MikeyLaFraah89) March 24, 2020
I know Ace is a victim of Growtix but in the end we all need our money back and if I don't get a cent back I'm done with cons.
— 🇫🇷 🐰☇Barry's Bunny☇🐰 🇫🇷 (@TheFlashsBunny) March 25, 2020
Dude I'm out $840 right now. Ugh
— Amy Grade🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Grade) March 25, 2020
I've seen many other cons that use growtix as their ticketing platform issue flat out refunds the day they were cancelled or postponed, why is this one so different???
— taco bell stan account (@ivykrvft) March 20, 2020
And other shows have pricked up their ears too…
We are looking into this already. Thank you for sending it to us!
— That's 4 Entertainment (@Thats4Ent) March 25, 2020
MegaCon Orlando, who also use GrowTix don't seem to have a similar problem, although they have a few of their own after moving dates…
The date was also agreed upon when placing the order. I don't think I should be out $10 because you changed it.
— Handsome Tom Chiodo (@idetestyou) March 24, 2020
This is, of course, just the beginning.