Capital City Comic Con sues ticket agency for customer data to help with refunds

The organizers of Capital City Comic Con have sued Ticket Rocket Enterprises in the provincial small claims court to recover data that would allow organizers to refund tickets to the cancelled event.

Organizing partners Cherry Bomb Toys, Downtown Victoria Business Association and Destination Greater Victoria — who make up Capital Comic Enthusiasts Society, which runs the annual movie, television, and comic book convention — say they are owed money from Ticket Rocket Enterprises from tickets sold to their event. Ticket Rocket in Victoria, an affiliate of Ticket Rocket in New Zealand, was the official ticket seller for Comic Con.

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Comic Con was set for March 20-22, 2020, at the Victoria Conference Centre and Crystal Garden. The event was postponed due to mass-gathering restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19.

A claim was filed in court on Feb. 24 for $11,000, which represents a portion of the ticket sales held back by the Victoria ticket seller. Ticket agencies will often hold back a percentage of sales revenue in order to recoup expenses covered by the agency in advance, on behalf of the event producer.

Day passes for the event were priced between $25 and $30 per person.

Roughly 80 cer cent of revenue from tickets sold to the event has been paid to Comic Con organizers by Ticket Rocket Victoria, according to the claim.

Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said in an interview that the society has received the ticket revenue, but does not know how to go about issuing refunds without the customer data.

The court claim alleges that a representative for Ticket Rocket Victoria said, in a letter dated May 27, 2020, it would not issue any further refunds until the ticket revenue previously advanced to Comic Con was returned.

Court fees, interest and the contact information of ticket purchasers, so that refunds can be administered, are also being sought in the claim, which names Ticket Rocket directors Chris Noel and Sean Toohey of Victoria and Matthew Robert Davey of New Zealand as defendants.

Davey’s other Ticket Rocket company, a Ticket Rocket company located in New Zealand, was put into receivership in August with debts of more than $8 million, according to a story in New Zealand newspaper Otago Daily Times.

Ticket Rocket’s Victoria office is not in possession of the sales data the claim is looking to recover, a representative for the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview with the Times Colonist. The data was controlled by software licensed through the New Zealand Ticket Rocket company.

“A third party service provider that provided the ticketing software and was storing the requested data had a receiver appointed and access to all data was, without notice to Ticket Rocket, terminated,” the representative said.

Without the data, a lawsuit was “the only alternative,” Bray said. “That’s not what we want to do. But we don’t know who has bought and sold tickets, so it’s the only recourse we have left.”

Ticket Rocket is one of several ticketing companies to dissolve under the “devastating impact” of the pandemic, the Ticket Rocket representative said. Without any revenue, Ticket Rocket was unable to pay employees and operating expenses.

“The pandemic also resulted in Ticket Rocket not being able to collect accounts receivable owing to it,” the representative said.

Following the postponement, refunds to Comic Con were processed for a brief period before all communication with Ticket Rocket ceased entirely, according to the claim. An alternative date in late 2020 was ­considered, with all purchased tickets being “completely transferable” to the new dates, according to a post by organizers on the Comic Con website. But communication between the two parties ended around May.

Ticket Rocket has laid off its ­Victoria staff, no longer holds a lease on its Broughton Street ­storefront and its website is inactive. But the company has not filed for bankruptcy, as it does not have the ­financial resources to do so, the ­representative said.

“With the pandemic restrictions expected to continue well into 2021, there is no possibility that Ticket Rocket could continue business ­operations. It was a hard decision to close the company, but it was the only decision available and we truly ­appreciate the hardship this has caused a very small number of events.”

Since opening in 2015, Ticket Rocket Victoria has been used as the ticket agent to a variety of sports and culture events, including the ­Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse team and ­Victoria HarbourCats baseball team.

According to court records, no other companies have filed claims against Ticket Rocket in Victoria.

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