Maryland’s attorney general has settled a deceptive practices complaint with Ticketmaster over the way the company handled the sale of Bruce Springsteen tickets in 2009, the same year that the company also ran afoul of the New Jersey attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the same issue.
The initial Maryland complaint alleged that Ticketmaster diverted customers to its TicketsNow secondary ticket resale site when looking for Springsteen tickets for a show at the Verizon Center. Essentially, according to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, “when consumers opted to continue their search for tickets, Ticketmaster did not inform the consumers that they were being diverted to a resale website where ticket brokers and other resellers offered tickets for sale at inflated prices.”
Springsteen’s Verizon Center show, like many during his tour in 2009, sold out quickly, but instead of stating that the show was sold out, Ticketmaster diverted those customers over to TicketsNow. The cause of many of those sellouts was not only Springsteen’s endearing popularity, but also due to the artist and his representatives holding back thousands of tickets, a common practice in the concert industry.
The settlement also takes on the issue of speculative ticket sales, where resellers sell tickets on Web sites before they have tickets in hand. While not outlawing such sales, the settlement requires that Ticketmaster “clearly describe the tickets that are being offered for resale, including, where applicable, that the tickets are not in hand, but rather, are being offered by a reseller who is speculating that it will be able to provide the tickets.” Spec tickets “must also be displayed differently on the TicketsNow website so that consumers can easily distinguish them from actual tickets,” Gansler’s office stated.
“Ticketmaster misled consumers when it offered tickets without informing them that they were being sold by brokers at inflated prices, and then, even at the inflated prices, it failed to provide the purchased tickets,” Gansler said in a statement. Ticketmaster has denied any wrongdoing and is not admitting to any violations as a part of the settlement. “Under this settlement, Ticketmaster must be more transparent when it steers consumers to its resale website so that consumers understand what they are purchasing.”
The practice also led to legislation in Canada that prohibits primary ticketing companies from offering tickets to the same event through its secondary ticketing division.
Live Nation, Ticketmaster’s and TicketsNow’s parent company, did not respond to messages seeking comment. The company will pay a total of $125,000 in penalties, costs and damages as a result of the settlement; about $10,000 of which will be divided up among an disclosed number of consumers who did not receive tickets to the concert.
Besides this settlement, Ticketmaster settled similar complaints with former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram and the FTC.