Md. Attorney General Settles with Ticketmaster for Deceptive Resale of Tickets

BALTIMORE (May 2, 2011) — Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced that his Consumer Protection Division has entered into a settlement with Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc.,, Inc. and TNOW Entertainment Group, Inc. The Division alleged that the Ticketmaster companies misled consumers who could not find tickets on the Ticketmaster website into entering its TicketsNow resale site and, in 2009, sold Bruce Springsteen Verizon Center concert tickets on its TicketsNow resale site that it did not have and could not provide.

In the past, when consumers searched for tickets on Ticketmaster’s website, if the tickets were sold out, consumers were told “No Tickets Found” and were invited to continue their search for tickets on Ticketmaster’s “TicketsNow” website. However, the Division alleges that 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. For example, in 2009, when the tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s Verizon Center concert sold out minutes after they were put on sale, the Division alleges a large number of consumers were referred by Ticketmaster to its TicketsNow website without realizing they were being transferred to a resale website.

The Division also alleged that the Ticketmaster companies misled consumers when they failed to advise some consumers that the resale tickets they were purchasing were not actually in the resellers’ possession at the time they were sold. Rather, the tickets, referred to in the settlement as “speculative tickets,” were tickets that the brokers and resellers did not actually possess, but were speculating that they would be able to obtain and provide to consumers at the stated price. Unfortunately, in 2009, more than 200 consumers who purchased tickets to the Bruce Springsteen Verizon Center concert did not receive the tickets they had purchased. The Ticketmaster companies had offered these consumers a “100% guarantee,” but consumers only received a refund, not the tickets they had been guaranteed.

“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,” said Attorney General Gansler. “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 Ticketmaster companies denied that they violated the Consumer Protection Act. But, under the terms of the settlement, the Ticketmaster companies agreed to inform consumers who opt to continue searching for tickets on the TicketsNow website after they are unable to purchase tickets on Ticketmaster’s primary site, that they are being transferred to a resale website where tickets are being offered at prices that exceed their face value. The settlement also requires the Ticketmaster companies to 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. Speculative tickets must also be displayed differently on the TicketsNow website so that consumers can easily distinguish them from actual tickets. The settlement also requires the Ticketmaster companies to cease using deceptive guarantees, including a statement that tickets are “guaranteed” or “100% guaranteed,” unless Ticketmaster will guarantee to deliver the tickets.

The Ticketmaster companies also agreed to pay the Division $10,000, which may be used to pay damages to consumers who purchased, but did not receive, tickets to the 2009 Bruce Springsteen Verizon Center concert if the consumers were not already fully compensated by Ticketmaster. The Ticketmaster companies will also pay the Division costs in the amount of $25,000 as well as a $90,000 civil penalty.

Source: Office of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler

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