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Ticketmaster to pay $4m to settle Canada lawsuit

Ticketmaster has agreed to pay a C$4 million (US$3.1m) fine to settle an investigation by the Canadian Competition Bureau into alleged deceptive pricing online.

Three Ticketmaster companies, Ticketmaster LLC, TNow Entertainment Group Inc. and Ticketmaster Canada LP, will additionally pay $500,000 (US$382,200) to settle costs incurred by the bureau during its investigation, according to the competition regulator.

The Competition Bureau brought legal action against Ticketmaster Canada in January 2018, after an investigation found Ticketmaster’s advertised prices are deceptive because consumers must pay additional fees added later in the purchasing process. “This practice, which is known as ‘drip pricing’, results in consumers paying much higher prices than advertised,” said the bureau. “Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%.”

“The bureau expects all ticket vendors to take note and review their marketing practice”

As part of a consent agreement registered with Canada’s Competition Tribunal, the Ticketmaster companies will also establish a “compliance programme” to ensure their advertising complies with Canadian law. The consent agreement has the force of a court order and will be binding for ten years.

The settlement concludes the regulator’s legal action against Ticketmaster. A private class-action lawsuit, led by Merchant Law Group, remains unresolved.

“Canadians should be able to trust that the prices advertised are the ones they will pay when purchasing tickets online,” says Canadian competition commissioner Matthew Boswell, commenting on the resolution of the case. “The bureau will remain vigilant and will not tolerate misleading representations.

“The bureau expects all ticket vendors to take note and review their marketing practices, knowing that the bureau continues to examine similar issues in the marketplace and will take action as necessary.”

 


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Ticketmaster signs Evenko parent Groupe CH

Ticketmaster has announced an exclusive ticketing partnership with Montreal-based Groupe CH, one of the largest entertainment and sports businesses in North America.

Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster will serve as the official primary and resale ticketing partner for the Montreal Canadiens, a leading ice-hockey team; Montreal’s 21,288-seat Bell Centre; the 10,000-seat Place Bell in Laval, Quebec; MTelus, a 2,300-cap. performing-arts venue in Montreal; and the Corona Theatre (753-cap.), also in Montreal, as well as several high-profile festivals, including Osheaga, Heavy Montreal and Ile Soniq.

All Groupe CH’s teams, venues and festivals will use Ticketmaster’s Presence platform to offer fans mobile tickets and a personalised event experience, including venue ingress and in-venue offerings.

“Groupe CH has experienced tremendous growth over recent years, and we’re excited to partner with a global leader like Ticketmaster who will not only provide the technology and scale to power the ticketing of our teams, venues and events, but also help us amplify our digital marketing capabilities,” says France Margaret Bélanger, the Montreal Canadiens’ EVP of commercial and corporate affairs.

“We know that Ticketmaster’s scale, coupled with our state-of-the-art products and services, will support Groupe CH’s phenomenal number of events”

“Ticketmaster’s digital entry experience will be of particular interest to our fans based on its success in dramatically reducing fraudulent tickets while also delivering creative fan engagement opportunities.”

Groupe CH’s concert promotion arm, Evenko, was the 16th largest promoter in the world – and the biggest in Canada – in 2018, selling nearly 1.3 million tickets, according to Pollstar.

“We could not be more excited to expand our partnership with Groupe CH, a global leader in sports and entertainment, and to deliver the best experience possible to their millions of fans,” comments Patti-Anne Tarlton, chairman of Ticketmaster Canada. “We know that Ticketmaster’s scale, coupled with our state-of-the-art products and services, will support Groupe CH’s phenomenal number of events while providing fans with a seamless ticketing experience. We’re looking forward to working together as we enter this new era of ticketing.”

Ticketmaster employs over 600 people in Canada, including a 240-strong workforce in its Montreal and Quebec City offices.

 


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Ticketmaster Canada hit with drip pricing class action

Following last week’s complaint by Canada’s Competition Bureau over the “deceptive” practice of drip pricing tickets, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have been hit with a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages and repayment for those affected by “improperly collected fees”.

The lawsuit was initiated by ‘class-action king’ Tony Merchant on behalf of a proposed class “consisting of all persons, corporations or other entities who purchased tickets subject to inflated prices” during a specific period. The lead plaintiff, Micheal Lindenbach, estimates he has paid more than C$1,000 in ‘drip fees’ over the past five years, according to Marchant.

According to the Competition Bureau, Canadian law requires all mandatory additional costs to be included in the price of the ticket. Conversely, said its commissioner, John Pecman, “Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%”, through the check-out process.

“On Friday, Merchant Law Group launched a class action litigation which seeks compensation and repayment to affected Canadian residents for all improperly collected fees due to drip pricing techniques used by Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” says Merchant.

“Canadians always expect to pay the price advertised, whether it’s for buying groceries or tickets to a concert”

“Canadians always expect to pay the price advertised, whether it’s for buying groceries or tickets to a concert. Ticketmaster and Live Nation collected these fees by advertising a much lower price for tickets, then jacking up the price.

“This case is particularly egregious given the dominant position which these companies hold over online ticket sales. When you consider the millions of sales transactions done by Ticketmaster in Canada each year, the magnitude of this class action becomes clear.”

In addition to Canada, drip pricing has also recently come under scrutiny in several European countries, including France and the Netherlands. The latter’s competition watchdog, the Authority for Consumers and Markets, said in October it was satisfied the ticketing sector had “turned a corner” after a majority of companies agreed to list all additional unavoidable costs up front.

Live Nation declined to comment on pending litigation.

 


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Ontario drops proposed ticket transparency rules

The Canadian province of Ontario has abandoned plans for legislation that would have required ticket sellers to disclose how many tickets are available to the public for a given event seven days before they go on sale.

The measure was announced last month as part of a consumer protection bill that also provides for capping the price of resold tickets at 150% of face value; banning ticket bots and prohibiting the resale of bot-bought tickets; and requiring business selling or reselling tickets to disclose information including the capacity of the venue, the number of tickets on general on-sale and the original face-value ticket price.

While those measures remain largely uncontroversial, Ontario’s Liberal party government is to drop the transparency clause under pressure from artists and the industry, reveals the Globe and Mail, concluding that the rule “would be a disincentive for musicians, particularly small and medium acts, to tour the province”.

“Revealing ticket numbers could enable touts to better use bots to buy bulk tickets where they’re known to be scarce”

While some argue a lack of transparency around the amount of tickets actually on sale is a symptom of a “broken” ticket market – “The murky nature of how many tickets are ever available to the public makes the secondary resale market an easy scapegoat when fans fail to acquire tickets on regular sale,” argues TicketNews’s Sean Burns, “only to see immediate resale options at substantially higher prices on the secondary market” – promoters and primary ticketers largely disagree, with the abandonment of the transparency measure following a concerted effort by Ticketmaster Canada and promoters’ association Music Canada Live, reports the Globe and Mail.

According to the paper, Ticketmaster’s Canadian COO, Patti-Anne Tarlton, told Ontarian parliamentarians that revealing total ticket numbers “could enable [touts] to better use bots to buy bulk tickets where they’re known to be scarce”.

A different proposal, backed by opposition parties, would force primary sellers to make at least 75% of tickets available to the public – although leaving artists and promoters with just 25% of ticket inventory would make Ontario less appealing to companies based outside the province, so is similarly unlikely to make it into law.

 


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