Lawsuit may force partial Ticketmaster fee refunds

The class-action suit calls Ticketmaster’s processing and delivery fees unfair.

Jennifer Bissell

Those who bought tickets from Ticketmaster.com in approximately the past 10 years may have a chance to have a portion of the price refunded.

A class-action lawsuit will determine if TicketmasterâÄôs order processing and UPS delivery fees are deceptive and lead customers to believe the price is representative of the costs to process and deliver the tickets.

Companies feel they can “get away with” these kinds of small fees because “nobody in their right mind” is going to sue over it, prosecuting lawyer Robert Stein said. “ThereâÄôs no incentive for them to do business honestly.”

Plaintiffs claim TicketmasterâÄôs fees violate CaliforniaâÄôs false advertising law and unfair competition law, according to a court document.

The case has been classified as a class-action suit, so it includes all U.S. residents who have bought tickets from Ticketmaster.com between Oct. 21, 1999 and May 31, 2010.

If found liable, Ticketmaster may have to refund a portion of the fees back to its customers.

“The amount in question is small for any given person, but the amount is large overall,” Stein said. “This [type of suit] is really what keeps companies honest at the end of the day.”

The case, filed in California roughly seven years ago, will be heard before a nonjury trial in the stateâÄôs Superior Court on Jan. 26, 2011.

The court ordered an e-mail be sent to the members of the class to notify them of the case and opportunities to opt out. It was sent Oct. 8. Additionally, a website with court documents has been launched.

TicketmasterâÄôs attorney Jeff Scott declined to comment, citing company policy against discussing pending litigation.

About 55 percent of advanced ticket sales at music venue First Avenue are sold through Ticketmaster, said First Avenue general manager Nathan Kranz.

The vast majority of the more expensive shows, however, are Ticketmaster sales, opposed to fan club or box office tickets, Kranz added.

“IâÄôm always amazed at how many customers actually use Ticketmaster,” Kranz said. “People are so used to buying tickets through them that Ticketmaster has been able to, I guess, use that market share to raise prices on people.”

Kranz said a lot of people use Ticketmaster because they arenâÄôt aware of any other options or simply because of convenience.

“[ItâÄôs the] same reason why people would drive their car downtown to pay $13 to park when they could take a bus,” Kranz said.

Since TicketmasterâÄôs merger with fellow ticket provider Live Nation, which has allowed for more control over ticket prices, fewer venues have wanted to contract with Ticketmaster, Kranz said.

“WeâÄôre still a Ticketmaster venue because weâÄôre under contract, but weâÄôre certainly looking at all of our options,” Kranz said. “They werenâÄôt called a monopoly by the government, but from where I sit it certainly looks like one.”

“I think itâÄôs pretty terrible that they can just charge whatever they want,” Kranz added. “Once youâÄôre under contract you have very little that you can do to keep the fees at a somewhat reasonable level.”