In a major victory for leading ticket resale marketplace StubHub — and in turn the overall secondary ticket market — a federal judge in New York this week ruled in favor of the company and dismissed a lawsuit by a fan who bought New York Yankees tickets from the site but complained of deceptive business practices.

Yankees fan Andrea Weinstein tried unsuccessfully to buy tickets to a 2010 Yankees game against the Kansas City Royals from the Yankees’ Web site, and the site redirected her to StubHub, which has a resale ticketing deal with Major League Baseball.

She ended up buying six Grandstand outfield tickets for $33 each, and also paid $19.80 in fees and $4.95 to receive the tickets electronically. However, she alleges the tickets carried a face value of $20 each, though they did not display the face value price, and had she known of difference she might not have bought them.

Weinstein’s attorneys argued that their interpretation of part of New York’s ticketing law stipulates that primary and secondary ticket vendors must show the face value of tickets, and that the Yankees essentially should have made sure that tickets on StubHub displayed that price.

U.S. District Court Judge John F. Keenan disagreed.

“This interpretation is untenable in light of the language of the statute as well as the realities of the secondary ticket market,” Keenan wrote in his decision. “The Court cannot conclude that the Legislature meant to impose an ongoing duty on operators to ensure that every resold ticket includes face value information where the statute singles out only one area of the secondary ticket market – resale auctions conducted by the operator or its agent – to subject to the requirements of [the ticketing law]. Moreover, even for those resale auctions that are undoubtedly regulated by [the law], an operator need not ensure that resold tickets include face value information; instead, the operator must print on those tickets their ‘final auction price,’ which could be higher or lower than the established price. The broad duty Plaintiff seeks to impose on operators such as the Yankees finds no support in the text of [the law].”

StubHub, like other third-party ticket marketplaces or broker Web sites, goes to great lengths to state that resold tickets sometimes sell for above face value, and StubHub itself does not hold any inventory. Instead, the ticket resale marketplace simply brings buyers and sellers together in a safe, online environment. Judge Keenan also let the Yankees off the hook by stressing that the team could not police all transactions that involve the team’s tickets.

“Under Plaintiff’s reading of the statute, the Yankees would be liable any time a scalper standing on a street corner sells a ticket with altered or no established price information.
There is simply no way the Yankees can police each and every third party ticket sale to ensure that the final purchaser receives the ticket in the same form, and with the same face value information, as when it was originally issued by the Yankees,” Keenan wrote.

“We are pleased by the ruling of Judge Keenan, but ultimately this is a victory for consumers,” Glenn Lehrman, spokesperson for StubHub, told TicketNews in a statement. “Over our 11 year history, StubHub has clearly shown that its services benefit fans by providing the most choice and access to live events.”

Weinstein’s attorney, Randall Newman, told Courthouse News that they intend to appeal the decision. “We are not claiming that the Yankees have to police each third party ticket sale. We are claiming that the Yankees and StubHub expressly agreed that StubHub could remove the face value from the ticket when the ticket is electronically issued.”

Judge Keenan said neither StubHub nor the Yankees deceived Weinstein because she bought tickets for more than the face value, a transaction she did not have to make if she did not like the price.

“Bad seats, last minute listings, or tickets to unpopular games may sell on StubHub for less than face value,” Judge Keenan wrote. “If sellers using StubHub’s website successfully charge prices above face value, they can do so because of the law of supply and demand, not because StubHub allegedly withholds price information from consumers.”

Last Updated on June 29, 2011