Ticket resale marketplace StubHub argued before the North Carolina Court of Appeals on December 1 that the company did not violate former state scalping laws when a couple paid above face value for “Hannah Montana” tickets on the site in 2007.
Greensboro, NC, residents Jeffrey and Lisa Hill paid $149 apiece for four tickets to the November 2007 concert, but the face value of each ticket was $56. The purchase price totaled $667.55, including $59.60 in fees and $11.95 for shipping.
At the time, a North Carolina law prohibited ticket resale above face value and capped fees at $3. About a year later, the state adopted new laws that legalized Internet-based ticket resale.
The Hills sued StubHub and claimed to a state Superior Court that the company allegedly violated the former law by selling the tickets.
However, StubHub argued that it acts as a marketplace that brings together buyers and sellers. As such, the company believes it is entitled to immunity under portions of the Communications Decency Act, which StubHub said protects it from the activities of others.
In a ruling in favor of the Hills earlier this year, the court acknowledged that StubHub did not set the price for the tickets, and the company “used all the right disclaimers and warnings in its user agreement” on the StubHub Web site.
However, the court said the company provided a means by which resellers “could scalp tickets in a manner which would have violated North Carolina law if done in person” instead of over the Internet.
“If [StubHub] did not know the face value of the tickets sold on its Web site — an assertion the Court would find difficult to accept — it was consciously indifferent about and willfully blind to that information,” the court said, adding that violating the then-law “was a predictable consequence of its business model.”
In a filing to the appeals court this summer, a group of Washington, DC- and North Carolina-based lawyers supporting StubHub argued that the Superior Court’s ruling was erroneous.
“The trial court’s decision threatens many online marketplaces with potentially serious liability based on pricing information and other content provided by third parties — precisely what Congress sought to eliminate by enacting Section 230 so as to promote online commerce,” the attorneys wrote.
The Hills’ lawyer believes StubHub violated the former law, in part because his clients dealt with the company in their purchase.
“[StubHub is] the one that charges your credit card,” attorney Charles Coble told Raleigh news station WRAL-TV. “They’re the one who you deal with if there’s a problem. They’re the one who makes arrangements for delivery. They’re the one who bears the risk of loss.”
A StubHub spokesperson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the case.
The appeals court is expected to rule on the case sometime in the first half of 2012.