March 10, 2009 By Alfred Branch Jr.
Following in the footsteps of the U.S. Justice Department, government officials in Canada are launching an investigation into the business practices of Ticketmaster Entertainment and its subsidiary TicketsNow.
The move comes after fans in Canada launched complaints and class action lawsuits against the companies for how ticket customers were allegedly rerouted from Ticketmaster’s Web site to the TicketsNow site where tickets are resold at a premium.
Officials from the country’s Competition Bureau were asked to investigate the companies, according to Reuters. “The government will not stand idly by when there is potential that companies are engaging in uncompetitive practices that are hurting consumers,” industry minister Tony Clement was quoted as telling Parliament recently. “And that’s why I am referring this matter directly to the Competition Bureau for their review.”
In addition, the Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario is also probing the two companies.
All of this comes as Ticketmaster battles to have its merger with Live Nation approved by U.S. regulators, and Irving Azoff, CEO of Ticketmaster Entertainment, throws TicketsNow and the whole secondary ticket market under the bus. Azoff told member of Congress that he would have voted against Ticketmaster’s acquisition of TicketsNow last year, if he had been with the company at the time, and he would consider selling it now.
Despite that admission, Ticketmaster has aggressively defended itself in its actions with TicketsNow, and vehemently denies it is playing tricks on customers.
In an open letter to fans last month following its debacle over Bruce Springsteen tickets, Ticketmaster stated unequivocally that it does not push tickets through TicketsNow, an assertion that the Attorney General of New Jersey did not believe, which led to the company settling a complaint without admitting any wrongdoing.
“Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices or control ticket availability – those decisions are made by the artist and the venue. Ticketmaster sells tickets directly to fans and does not divert tickets to brokers or others reselling tickets, including our affiliate TicketsNow. TicketsNow does not receive any preferential access to tickets that Ticketmaster is selling on behalf of its clients,” the letter said, in part.