Issue over Springsteen resales resolved

The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Ticketmaster to refund money to concertgoers to settle a highly publicized flap over the resale of Bruce Springsteen tickets in 2009.

The order, which settled the FTC’s suit against Ticketmaster and its subsidiaries, was filed Thursday in Illinois federal court. The FTC maintains that the ticketing firm used bait-and-switch tactics when it sold ducats to 16 Springsteen shows at inflated prices through the firm’s resale site, TicketsNow, in February 2009.

The regulator also said that many of the tickets offered on TicketsNow were not actually “in hand” — legitimately secured for sale — but were being offered speculatively.

The settlement holds ramifications for other companies in the ticketing biz: The FTC is sending a warning letter to other resale firms, advising them that it may take legal action to redress future misleading or speculative ticket practices.

Ticketmaster has maintained the fiasco was the product of a computer software glitch.

An FTC spokeswoman said the number of consumers who overpaid for tickets could range from “several hundred to a thousand.” The actual number who will be compensated will be determined by the FTC’s redress administrator.

Under the settlement, eligible consumers will receive a refund of the additional money they paid to buy the higher-priced tickets from TicketsNow.

The settlement specifically addresses speculative Springsteen sales at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., where nearly half the consumers who purchased tickets through TicketsNow did not receive them because the company did not actually have them in hand. Those consumers are being awarded a refund of the full ticket price.

“Buying tickets should not be a game of chance,” FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “Ticketmaster’s refrain is that it sold through TicketsNow to give consumers more choices. But when you steer consumers to your resale websites without clear disclosures, and they unknowingly buy tickets at higher prices, they’ll be left with a sour note.”

The Springsteen ticketing gaffe sparked a loud brouhaha among the Boss’ fans early last year; Springsteen himself weighed in on his website, condemning Ticketmaster and voicing his opposition to its then-pending merger with promoter Live Nation.

In the performer’s home state of New Jersey, Ticketmaster agreed to pay $700,000 in fines and refunds to resolve the situation.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), an outspoken opponent of the merger who last year introduced a congressional bill — the so-called Boss Act” — designed to place greater constraints on ticket resellers, lauded Thursday’s settlement in a statement on his website.

“At last, the federal government is siding with American consumers, who are the real winners in this settlement,” Pascrell said. However, he added, “I’d like to see the consumer protections in this settlement and the additional ones in my legislation given the full force of law.”

In January, the Justice Dept. approved the firms’ merger as Live Nation Entertainment, pending court approval of a settlement addressing antitrust issues (Daily Variety, Jan. 26).

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