Kathryn van den Berg 

The name ‘Rocking the Daisies’ (RTD) is one that the majority of Stellies students recognise as belonging to a much-loved annual music festival. This year, however, changes to significant regulations regarding the festival have caused an outcry of outrage from festival-goers. Not only are the changes themselves a cause for upset, but the handling of complaints and communication on behalf of the festival organisers have sparked greater discontent.

Liam Bodley Quinlan, a BSc Environmental Geochemistry student in his third year, explains that “the new rule prohibits all liquids from the festival. This includes water, milk, medicine, sanitary products, and alcohol (what sparked the initial outrage).”A reason given by Quinlan as to why the festival amended their regulations after the majority of tickets had been purchased is environmental concerns. He stated “the [new] rules coincide with their new headline sponsor (CanDo!).”

Angelique Riddles, a 3rd year Humanities student, attempted to express her dissatisfaction with the change of regulations using social media – a platform often used by RTD for promotion. She expressed her discontent by saying that changes made after she purchased her ticket made her “feel cheated into something that I did not agree to” and “the organisers ignoring the criticism of their consumers proves that they do not care about the well-being of their consumers.”

Brendon van Niekerk, a 2nd year industrial engineering student, attempted to understand the reasons for the change of regulations. van Niekerk said “these changes allow the organisers to have better control of what is brought into the event and also help to reduce the amount of plastic waste at the festival.” van Niekerk then expressed how “in general, the customer support group gives the same tired copy-pasted replies to everyone who complains, and they neglected to inform me (and possibly all other ticket holders) via email or other means that their rules changed. Social media comments and posts – especially on RTD’s Facebook page – have become solely negative and fuel everyone’s anger and resentment towards the organisers of RTD. The reaction of the organisers on social media is delayed and is only creating a worse situation.”

After unsuccessfully attempting to contact a representative from the festival for some time, Qiunlan went so far with his complaints as to contact the legal representative of the event. Quinlan’s failure to communicate, or get in contact, with the organisers of the festival resulted in his being uncertain whether he (and other ticketholders) have any basis on which to seek legal action against the event. When attempting to secure comment from the organisers, Die Matie was met with silence. Posting on their Facebook page that “Die Matie is looking to interview a representative from RTD, Steyn, CAN DO! or any other sponsor of the festival for an article… to provide a chance for the event to explain/defend regulations which have caused clear upset and controversy” yielded no response. Organisers were informed that publication of the article would commence regardless of whether they replied to this request.

Nikita Roodt, a practicing attorney and representative of the SU Law Clinic, was consulted regarding the legality of the situation.   Roodt strongly stressed the “information provided herein should not be construed as constituting legal advice – professional legal advice should first be obtained”, she provided basic clarity on some of the issues that have arisen due to this controversy. Roodt stresses that the decision made by the organisers to announce their policy change less than a month before the festival, “after 95% of the tickets had been sold”, could indeed constitute “deceptive and misleading” behaviour from the organisers. Roodt obtained some of her information from the RTD Facebook page “on 6 September 2018 at 12:41 pm”. She said how such conduct is indeed “prohibited in terms of section 41 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 68 of 2008…” RTD did, however, post on the RTD Facebook page on 11 September.

This post explained rule changes to the 2018 festival, and attempted to justify them. However, in response, Roodt stated that: “the organisers claim… that the current festival management has been involved in RTD since 2016 and that this is their third ‘run at this’… they had ample opportunity, before the ticket sales commenced for the 2018 festival, to announce any changes.” Moreover, Roodt stated that festival goers “may be entitled to approach the court to declare the marketing of the festival as deceptive and misleading. This could lead to an order that the organisers should refund the festivalgoers any monies paid by them in terms of the misleading or deceptive marketing.”

Photo: SUPPLIED