A recent BBC Three documentary titled “Crashed: $800m Festival Fail” has shed light on the downfall of Pollen, a start-up events company that went into administration last summer.
According to BBC Three, Pollen allegedly took unauthorized payments totaling $3.2 million from customers just months before its collapse in August 2022.
Former Pollen staff, as detailed in a report seen by BBC Three, revealed that approximately 15,800 customers were affected by this incident, with many still awaiting refunds a year later.
Pollen operated on a “peer-to-peer” marketing model, where customers were encouraged to sell tickets to attend festivals and events for free. The company ultimately went bankrupt, leaving debts exceeding £78.6 million.
Out of the £78.6 million owed, £4.5 million was owed to recruiters and management consultants, and £150,000 to a private jet charter firm. The documentary also raised concerns about company expenses, alleging that over £100,000 was spent on a villa in Ibiza. Pollen stated that the villa was not for personal use.
In April 2022, Pollen was valued at $800 million (£632 million), shortly before its collapse. According to BBC Three, at that time, 15,800 customers were enrolled in a monthly payment plan, but unbeknownst to them, they were charged multiple times for their next installments.
Pollen’s founders, Callum and Liam Negus-Fancey, referred to the overcharges as a “mistake” and denied intentionally double or triple charging customers.
The documentary “Crashed: $800m Festival Fail” suggests that a senior employee at Pollen wrote the computer code responsible for the multiple charges, which was tested on May 20, 2022, and triggered on May 21, 2022, without customer authorization.
BBC reached out to 18,000 Pollen customers regarding the incident, and only 10 out of 259 respondents claimed to have received a partial or full refund.
The documentary also presented screenshots of payment confirmations sent to vendors, such as chauffeur companies. However, it is alleged that the wire transfers were not executed.
An Ibiza chauffeur company owner, hired by Pollen in the summer of 2022, informed BBC Three that he is still owed €17,000, despite receiving proof of payment for the amount owed.
Pollen issued a statement to Mixmag, stating that they provided documented evidence to BBC Three proving that the allegations made in the documentary were factually untrue. They acknowledged the overcharge as an error and claimed that all customers were either refunded or received a voucher at their discretion. Pollen stated that the refunds mentioned in the documentary were unrelated to the overcharge but were due to the company entering administration.
A former Pollen employee revealed that to get a vendor to cooperate, the events company would communicate that a wire transfer had been sent and send a screenshot of the confirmation page to the vendor.
“In reality, the final confirmation button had never been pressed, and that money was never sent to the vendor,” the former employee added.
Written by: Artificial Intelligence Technology