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Russia: Law Regulating Sale and Return of Tickets to Cultural Events and Museums Comes into Effect

(Sept. 30, 2019) On July 18, 2019, the president of the Russian Federation signed into law a bill regulating the sale and return of tickets to cultural events and admissions to museums. (Federal Law on Amending the Law of the Russian Federation on Fundamentals of the Legislation of the Russian Federation on Culture, July 18, 2019.) The Law came into effect on September 1, 2019. The government of the Russian Federation drafted the Law with the aim of curtailing activities of dishonest intermediaries (commonly called the “ticket mafia”) in the ticket sales market.

According to the Law, the Ministry of Culture must set requirements for the format of admission tickets, subscriptions, and tour tickets, while performing arts organizations and museums have the right to set the conditions for issuing tickets. The Law further mandates that cultural organizations and individual entrepreneurs engaged in creating, interpreting, and showing objects of art publish (including on their official websites) prices for tickets for performances and museum admissions, the conditions for issuing and returning tickets, and the names of persons authorized to resell tickets. Selling tickets for more than the price indicated on the tickets is prohibited. (Art. 1, §§ 1 & 2.)

Museums or organizations of performing arts can sell the tickets themselves or via authorized persons (both legal entities and individual entrepreneurs without legal registration). Authorized persons are required to conclude contracts with the performing arts organizations. These contracts can be transferred to a third party, in which case the authorized persons bear responsibility for the actions of the subcontractors. The Law bans the sale of tickets by anyone other than authorized persons and their subcontractors. This ban does not apply to the one-time sale of a ticket by a private citizen. Authorized persons have the right to establish service fees, which should be reflected in the receipt issued to the customer. The service fee should be less than 10% of the price of the ticket. The Ministry of Culture is to determine the procedure for calculating and setting service fees for tickets. (Art 1, § 2; art. 521, § 2.)

The Law stipulates that cultural organizations and individual entrepreneurs also have the right to issue personalized tickets (including to foreign nationals) that require their holders to produce an identification document to gain admission to the art show or museum. These tickets are not transferable and names on the tickets cannot be changed. Admission can be denied if there is discrepancy between the identification document and issued ticket. (Art. 1.)

The Law establishes the procedure for returning and refunding tickets, including in cases of cancellation of performances. Full refunds are to be granted for tickets that are returned no later than 10 days before the date of the performance. The Law provides that ticket refunds are to be made on a sliding scale based on the date of return. Cultural organizations or authorized persons can decide upon refund conditions of tickets that are returned up to three days prior to the performance day. Full refunds are to be granted in cases when the illness or death of the family members of ticket holders can be documented, regardless of the date of return. Ticket holders are to be granted full refunds if a performance is cancelled or the date is changed. Cultural organizations have the right to offer to exchange the tickets for comparable ones for the rescheduled performance. Tickets deemed invalid or not meeting approved format requirements are not returnable. (Art. 1, § 2.)

According to legislators the Law will better protect the interests of theaters and theatergoers from dishonest ticket dealers who buy tickets in bulk to sell at inflated prices, thereby creating artificial shortages on the market, and then, when they fail to sell the tickets and are forced to return them, cause problems for the theaters. As the chairman of State Duma (lower chamber of the Russian legislature) noted, “[t]he amount for returned tickets by dishonest customers at the Theater of the Nation  averages more than 3 million rubles [about US$46,000] for a theater season.”