GSMA offers some clarification on MWC cancellation fallout, promises more by 31 March

David Murphy

In the wake of the cancellation of this year’s MWC Barcelona edition, we asked the GSMA, on 12 February, the date the cancellation was announced, for clarification on a number of points.

Specifically, where did the cancellation leave exhibitors contractually? Would those exhibitors who withdrew from the event before it was cancelled be in the same position as those who were still prepared to take part? How much would the cancellation cost the GSMA and would they be covered for the loss by their insurance? Finally, what was the likelihood of MWC Shanghai in June taking place?

This afternoon, we received answers to those questions, which we are happy to share with our readers here.

Firstly, the GSMA pointed out the magnitude of the decision it had taken. “As a not for profit organisation and the convener of an entire industry and related ecosystem, the implications of this situation are hugely significant for the GSMA” its statement reads. “We ask for patience as we work through what has happened and formulate proposals which we hope enable us to maintain our long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships with the entire MWC community. This is our primary focus at this time, we anticipate being able to provide further updates to those affected by 31st March 2020.”

On the state of play for those exhibitors who withdrew from the event, the GSMA made its position very clear, telling us: “In accordance with our standard terms and conditions, all exhibitors who cancelled are liable for cancellation fees based on the point at which they notified us.”

No details were offered as to what these fees amount to, but the GSMA’s terms and conditions for MWC 2020 say this: "Termination less than 120 days prior to the Event Date, one hundred percent (100%) of the total cost of the Space, Advertising and/or Sponsorship cancelled.”

The GSMA has not yet issued any public statement on the position for those exhibitors who had paid for their stand and were prepared to exhibit, but were unable to do so due to the cancellation of the event. However, Telecoms.com has reported that two exhibitors have been in touch to say the GSMA contacted them and referred them to  clause 21.10 of the Standard Terms and Conditions for Exhibition, Advertising, and Sponsorship of the event, which state:

"The Organizer shall not be liable to the Company for any losses, costs, damages or expenses (whether incurred under contract, tort or otherwise) suffered or incurred as a direct or indirect result of an event beyond the control of the Organizer, including without limitation, any act of God, disease or epidemic, strike, lock-out, industrial disturbance, failure of suppliers, act of public enemy, war, labor dispute, terrorist act, blockade, riot, civil commotion, public demonstration or governmental or local authority restraint nor shall the Organizer be liable to refund any fees."

If the GSMA is indeed maintaining this hard line and refusing to refund any money to those exhibitors who had not pulled out,  it will make negotiations with those same companies to exhibit at next year's event interesting, to say the least. 

Finally, on the prospects for MWC 2020 Shanghai, due to take place in June, the GSMA said this: “As for MWC Shanghai, coronavirus has had a significant impact in China, with many events and public gatherings cancelled. We are hopeful that the circumstances will improve and are monitoring the situation carefully. MWC Shanghai and LA 2020 are scheduled to take place."