Just as the company deals with its two Congressional hearings this week on its planned merger with Live Nation, Ticketmaster Entertainment is about to be hit by a third class action lawsuit in Canada over its alleged business practices.
In addition, Ticketmaster separately finds itself on the defensive again North of the Border, this time over its alleged mishandling of sales of Leonard Cohen tickets.
Attorneys representing plaintiffs in the third class action lawsuit are from the province of Manitoba, and they allege that Ticketmaster “conspired to divert tickets to popular events away from” its Web site to “its ticket brokering website TicketsNow, in which the same tickets were sold at premium prices,” according to a statement about the pending lawsuit.
The other two class action lawsuits were filed earlier this month in the provinces of Ontario and Alberta, and combined they are seeking a total of about $750 million in damages. One of the lawsuits claims that Ticketmaster and TicketsNow allegedly redirect consumers to higher priced tickets, something that Ticketmaster apologized for in relation to sales of Bruce Springsteen tickets. The second lawsuit claims that Ticketmaster’s extra convenience and service fees are excessive.
The latest class action lawsuit aims to represent anyone bought tickets for an event in Manitoba from the TicketsNow Web site dating back to February 17, 2007.
According to attorneys, the lawsuit was initiated on behalf of a unnamed woman who tried to purchase Carrie Underwood tickets for a December 2, 2008 show at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Using a “pre-sale password” obtained from a local radio station the woman and her daughter tried numerous times to buy tickets on the Ticketmaster Web site, “but each time were redirected to the TicketsNow website.” The daughter, allegedly thinking she was buying four tickets in the second row for $193, completed the transaction on TicketsNow. Later, the credit card was charged a total of “$917.75 including ‘service charges’ and a ‘delivery charge,’ according to the attorneys. The woman tried to have the order cancelled, but was denied, and in addition she was allegedly charged in U.S. currency which converted to $1,010.05. The original face value of the tickets was $57 each.
“We have heard hundreds of similar stories from consumers across Canada who alledge the process in which tickets are sold on the Ticketmaster and TicketsNow website contravenes specific legislation in their province,” the plaintiff’s attorney Luciana Brasil, of the law firm Branch MacMaster, said in a statement.
“The Manitoba legislation exists to govern the process by which tickets are sold, and we are hopeful the courts will take a serious look into this issue,” added attorney Matthew Maruca, of Wilder Wilder & Langtry, in a statement. He, too, represents the plaintiff.
During a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday, February 24, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, urged Ticketmaster to sell its TicketsNow division to help avoid such problems in the future. Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff did not say he would sell it, but said had he been with the company when it was bought, he would have strongly opposed the deal because he does not believe there should be a secondary market for tickets.
As part of a recent settlement with New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, Ticketmaster vowed to end the practice of placing tickets for sale on TicketsNow before they went on sale to the general public, but according to a report published by CBC.com, the company was doing just that with Leonard Cohen tickets.
Tickets reportedly were selling at a face value of $99 to $250, but werre being sold on TicketsNow for between $568 and $856. Service charges tacked on an additional $85 to $128 per ticket, according to CBC.com.
“Sometimes it’s a matter [in] large corporations like that of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Is that understandable? Yes. Is that excusable? No,” Duncan Gillespie, CEO of the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, ONT, told CBC.com. “Do they need to correct it? Absolutely. We’re not happy and I think fans are justifiably very unhappy.”
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