Wednesday 25 March 2020 5:49 pm

MWC to offer refunds after conference scrapped due to coronavirus

Mobile World Congress (MWC) will offer refunds to anyone who paid to attend the conference in a move that could “lay down the gauntlet” for other events cancelled due to coronavirus.

Organiser GSMA scrapped the telecoms extravaganza in February following a string of high-profile withdrawals, saying health concerns made it “impossible” for the event to go ahead.

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It was one of the first major events to be called off as a result of the pandemic.

But GSMA — the trade body for the mobile industry — today said it will refund the full price of the ticket, which costs €799 (£734) for a basic exhibition pass.

Clients that spent larger sums of money on the conference can also claim a refund, or have been offered credits as an incentive to attend future events.

MWC’s event tickets show the conference had a force majeure clause, meaning it was protected in the event of a pandemic and was not obliged to refund the money.

“This move should reasonably be seen as a true gesture of goodwill,” said Nick Breen, senior associate at law firm Reed Smith, who added it could prompt other event organisers to follow suit.

“Whilst not all events and conferences may have the benefit of a detailed force majeure provision, for annual events with sufficient financial stability this could be precedent-setting for what attendees come to expect,” he said.

Under GSMA’s financial package, companies that spent up to £5,000 on MWC 2020 can claim either a full refund or credit worth 125 per cent of what they paid. This would be applied as a discount on the cost of attending MWC over the next three years.

Clients with spend over £5,000 are entitled to the same credits, or can claim 50 per cent of this year’s fees as a refund, up to a maximum of £150,000.

Companies that withdrew before the conference was officially cancelled — including BT, Vodafone, Amazon and Facebook — are entitled to the credits but not the refunds.

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“The GSMA values the loyalty and support of our members and partners in the mobile ecosystem worldwide,” said chief executive John Hoffman.

GSMA said it already has formal support for MWC 2021 from firms including O2 owner Telefonica, Vodafone and Orange.