GSMA offers refunds to some MWC 2020 exhibitors, discounts to others

via Flickr © pfala (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via Flickr © pfala (CC BY-ND 2.0)

  • Exhibitors that didn't pull out before show's cancellation offered full or partial refund or discount
  • Those that did pull out are only eligible for a discount though, not the refund
  • Better than nothing, given GSMA isn't liable for exhibitor losses resulting from epidemics

The GSMA has offered compensation to exhibitors and attendees affected by the cancellation of this year's Mobile World Congress, but the small print might rankle a few people.

The industry group pulled the plug on the mobile market's biggest annual trade show on 12 February in response to coronavirus. The decision came after a trickle of high-profile exhibitors pulling out of the show turned into a flood that included Ericsson, Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, and LG, among others.

In hindsight it was clearly the right course of action, but at the time there were plenty of people still prepared to travel to Barcelona. In fact, some still did, and took it as a chance to eat tapas and network.

With the world now firmly in the grip of a COVID-19 pandemic that has cast doubt on whether even next year's Mobile World Congress will be able to take place, the GSMA has launched a MWC 2020 compensation scheme.

The GSMA said it will refund 100 percent of the purchase price of all attendee tickets, via the original payment method.

Clients that spent up to £5,000 have the choice of option one: a 100 percent refund, or option two: a cumulative credit of 125 percent of what they paid for MWC 2020 that will be divided across the next three years as follows:

  • 65 percent credit on MWC 2021 fees
  • 35 percent credit on MWC 2022 fees
  • 25 percent credit on MWC 2023 fees

Clients that spent more than £5,000 have a choice of a 50 percent refund capped at £150,000; or the cumulative discount described above.

However, the cash refund option is only available to clients that didn't withdraw from MWC 2020 before the GSMA canned it. Those that did pull out in advance are only eligible for the discounted rates for the next three years.

That might not go down well with exhibitors that took the responsible decision to safeguard employees and other attendees by pulling out before it was cancelled. Another way of interpreting the announcement is that the GSMA is giving preferential treatment to clients that demonstrated loyalty in the face of an escalating global health crisis.

"The GSMA is grateful for the loyalty of our exhibitors and sponsors over the years, and we are well-placed to understand their decision to cancel attendance at MWC Barcelona 2020," said a GSMA spokeswoman, in an email to TelecomTV. She reiterated the GSMA's pleasure in offering them the cumulative fees credit of 125 percent of 2020 spend over the next three years.

As we know, under the GSMA's terms and conditions, it can't be held liable for any losses incurred by exhibitors that are beyond its control, which includes disease and epidemics. So, the fact that it is offering any kind of compensation is a positive. However, the fact that it has therefore actively chosen to set the level of compensation based on which exhibitors did and didn't pull out could still cause some upset in some quarters.



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