Arkansas Court Tells Ticketmaster It Is Bound By Anti-Scalping Laws

The Arkansas Supreme Court has issued a legal kick to the gut of the fee-happy folks at Ticketmaster and Live Nation, confirming that the ticket seller is bound by the same state laws that prevent scalpers from piling on fees and charging exorbitant prices.

Ticketmaster is the subject of a lawsuit brought by an Arkansas man who says the $49 in fees — on top of the $42.75/ticket — he paid for four tickets to a concert by country singer Jason Aldean violated the provision of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that forbids the sale of tickets above their face value plus reasonable credit card or handling fees.

The perennial Worst Company In America contender argued that the law is intended to regulate scalpers, and not licensed ticket sellers like Ticketmaster.

The lower court ruled last month that the Act does apply to Ticketmaster, but the matter was booted up to the state Supreme Court for confirmation. There, the panel split 4-3 against Ticketmaster’s petition.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, issued without comment, only confirms its position that licensed ticketing agents are bound by the Act. It does not necessarily mean that the court believes the plaintiff’s claims that Ticketmaster violated the Act. The lawsuit is still pending.

Court won’t reconsider Ticketmaster ruling [ArkansasNews.com]
Arkansas Supreme Court won’t rehear Ticketmaster suit [AP]

Thanks to Augustus for the tip!

Comments

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    Thank you Arkansas Supreme Court with dozens of courts left to go.
    Seriously, how can it cost $49 dollars to sell a $42.75 dollar ticket?
    They are either greedy beyond description or incompetent beyond description.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Four $42.75 tickets.

      But still …

      • StarKillerX says:

        Yeah, but this way is more dramatic and while it does give one the wrong impression when has accuracy every been a concern with most of the writers here?

    • CubeRat says:

      I believe it was $49 fee for all four tickets, so $12.25 fee per ticket. But I agree with the ‘greedy beyond description’.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        It’s digital, is there any way the cost to handle a sale of 4 tickets is significantly higher than one?

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          …is there any way the cost to handle the sale of even one ticket is as high as the fees charged?

          Hint: no.

        • FatLynn says:

          No, but if they were only allowed to charge by transaction, you’d no longer be able to buy more than one ticket, and never sit by your friends at a concert.

    • j2.718ff says:

      can’t they be both?

    • FatLynn says:

      Does anyone know what it actually costs to operate servers that can handle the load from would-be ticket purchasers when a sale first opens for a really big act? I would really love to see some numbers, because it seems like TM is all servers and a bit of overhead.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Actual costs? Maybe a couple hundred bucks in total. I’d wager Ticketmaster’s actual cost-per-ticket-sold is in the ones of dollars.

      • MrEvil says:

        I know Amazon and other vendors will rent server infrastructure that adapts to the load and you only pay for the run-time you use. Though I guess you could overload Amazon’s rental capacity as well.

      • Emily says:

        It can’t be much more than it costs sites like Fandango and MovieTickets.com to handle ticket sales for all movies across the country during summer blockbuster weekends.

      • DogiiKurugaa says:

        No clue, but they obviously don’t spend enough considering the three times I have ever tried to purchase tickets for a big event through them the moment they go on sale the site has crashed on me to the point I just have given up on ever going to any big event.

    • limbodog says:

      My understanding is that Ticketmaster is a scapegoat service. The acts want to charge exorbitant fees for their concerts and ticketmaster steps in and charges that fee in two parts for them (the advertised fee and the hidden fee). I don’t think TM is rolling in as much money as the prices would suggest. I think they’re splitting that hidden fee with the acts.

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Ha-ha! /muntz

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    if found guilty, will they be arrested? that remind me, I need to go buy tickets. see if there’s any fee in person.

    • ARP says:

      I’m perfectly fine with that. Then I’ll know the full price to buy a ticket and determine if its worth it to me. There have been many shows, where I was on the fence (e.g. $35 for LCD Soundsystem at X venue). Knowing the full price allows me to make an informed decision.

  4. castlecraver says:

    One could argue how much Ticketmaster influences the “face value” of the ticket through their relationships with venues and acts, but certainly they’re the ones who print the “face value” on the actual ticket. So what’s to stop them from just calculating their fees into the face value for tickets sold in Arkansas (and any other socialist states later decide they too hate freedom)?

    • castlecraver says:

      *that later decide.
      accidentally a word.

    • RandomHookup says:

      I’ve heard tell that TM and the performers (and perhaps the venue) set the face value to seem affordable and then split the processing fees as part of the deal.

      • Steevo says:

        Apparently the anti-scalping law in that state prohibits adding fees that do not relate to costs at all.

        If they are charging extra fees and splitting the money as extra profits, they just have to put that in the ticket price.

        But then they might not be able to screw some parties out of their share.

        I suspect that’s why it’s being done this way.

      • history_theatrestudent says:

        The manufacture or creator of a product and the retailer are limited in working together when it comes to setting the price. The same principle is at the center of the lawsuit against Apple and a few other digital book publishers, and why a few publishers have chosen to settle with the DOJ.

    • incident_man says:

      I’ve been to Arkansas and it’s about as far away from “Socialism” as it could get.

  5. longfeltwant says:

    Good luck, brother. How sweet would it be if 49 states had to pay +25% in fees, but one state only had to pay +2% fees because “reasonable” was interpreted by a judge. I would love that. It would encourage similar laws in the other states.

    Personally, I still just don’t understand the mechanism by which Ticketmaster maintains monopoly. How is it possible? All they do is sell scraps of paper on a website. Millions of other websites could do the same. My guess is they maintain their monopoly via payola, graft.

    • mikedt says:

      Scraps of paper and monopoly agreements with venues across the country. The combo works wonders. Those TM fees are kicked back to the venue owners to keep them in line and happy.

    • stevenpdx says:

      They make agreements with the venues to be the only authorized ticket seller for that venue’s events.

      • JJFIII says:

        The make agreements with venues that are exclusive AND many are funded with your tax dollars. Ticketmaster and the management companies of these venues then take their corporate welfare and shove it up our asses.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      I think you mean “+100% in fees.”

      • longfeltwant says:

        I calculated $49 to be approximately 25% of 4*$42.75=$171 dollars, but I just did the math and it’s more like 29%.

    • TurdFerguson says:

      They own exclusive ticketing licences with most major venues in major cities, so even if you wanted to have a free ticketed concert in a major city and distribute the tickets yourself… you’d have to have your fans pay them to give away the tickets. You would also NOT be allowed to physically distribute the tickets yourself (at your own cost). Nor could you fan go to the venue and just pick-up a ticket… not using Ticketmaster servers of bandwidth.

      To complicate matters worse most of those major cities have multiple radio stations own by clear channel (an admitted monopoly, thankyou telecom act of 1996 and Mr. Clinton). Clear channel media and Ticketmaster are bed-buddies so if you skip the CC radio-show invite (from a station in that market) or do another station in addition to them (thus the CC station won’t have an exclusive) good luck getting you concert mentioned, advertised, or music played. That is ALL perfectly legal and $hitty beyond belief.
      I’ve worked in radio for years and what the telecom act of 1996, Clear Channel, and Ticketmaster has done has created loose-loose for artist and labels. You might say waaa-waaa many folks are rich regardless but what about niche artist or upstart labels… they are both quickly becoming non-existent.

  6. paperdragon says:

    Why should Ticketmaster be exempt from scalper laws? Because they’re such nice guys?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I doin’t see how. A scalper is someone who buys in bulk at ticket release time and re-sells them for a price higher than the original sale price.

      The only difference between that and Ticketmaster is that TM and the venue agree to sell to them first.

    • Missing in Vlissingen says:

      “Arkansas Court Tells Ticketmaster It Is Bound By … Laws”

      This is like reminding my kids to turn out the light when they leave a room. You can remind and remind over and over again, but good luck changing their behavior.

  7. ronbo97 says:

    What about all the surcharges, convenience fees, human interface fees, etc., that the box office themselves charge ?

  8. dush says:

    A reasonable handling fee wouldn’t more than double the price? Why do they hate capitalism?

  9. rlmiller007 says:

    Greedy bastards finally get it. Hope they loose the lawsuit and have to refund every fee that was paid to them plus a handling charge for me to cash the check.

  10. JMH says:

    Isn’t any sale of a ticket to a country concert automatically scalping since it’s paying a nonzero price for something with no value?

  11. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Should the courts rule against Ticketmaster, it won’t matter. Those fees will simply be rolled into the cost of the ticket and hidden from the purchaser.
    Frankly, I respect their naked greed. It’s more honest. I don’t like it, but that’s another argument.

    • Geekybiker says:

      At least they’ll be honest about the price of a ticket then. Its not like the cost of selling a ticket is a surprise or some optional fee. I’d much rather see the tickets listed as $100 than $50 with a $50 fee.

  12. J. Cohen says:

    Well, heck. There goes their business model down the toilet.

  13. frodolives35 says:

    Oh my God I may get to go to a real concert again. Do they still have general admission and smoke dope openly. lol

  14. NeverLetMeDown says:

    It’s ironic, since Ticketmaster would like to roll a lot of those fees into the price of the ticket (since the bulk of the fees go to the bands and venues), but in most cases the promoters won’t let them, since it makes the tickets _look_ cheaper, and lets the bands blame Ticketmaster for the price, while hiding how much they’re getting.

    :Consumers seeking tickets to all sorts of events have become increasingly frustrated — and sometimes enraged — by ticket fees, which can add 30 or 40 percent to the cost of an order, as well as by the lack of other options for buying tickets. But while the brunt of that anger is usually directed at Ticketmaster, other players in the business, like theaters and promoters, collect, and depend on, their share of fees.

    “John Scher, a veteran promoter in New York and New Jersey, called String Cheese Incident’s efforts “a righteous cause,” but added that in most cases the cost of booking quality acts was so high that promoters cannot afford to forgo their share of ticketing fees, known in the industry as rebates.

    “The acts have gotten so greedy across the board, and have made the risk-reward so impossible, that the rebates are very much the lifeblood of promoters,” Mr. Scher said. (The band’s tour is not coming to the Northeast.)”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/arts/music/string-cheese-incident-takes-on-ticketmaster.html

    • bravo369 says:

      I know someone who works for ticketmaster and I complained about the fees. He said exactly that…that alot of times it’s the venues and promoters who charge these fees so ticketmaster has to pass it on.

      Isn’t there that law for airlines that they need to disclose the ‘true’ cost of the ticket including fees? I think there were articles about Spirit airlines on here regarding that. That law needs to be applied to EVERYTHING. if there’s $50 in fees that I absolutely cannot avoid then on top of the $50 price then the price needs to be advertised as $100. Same goes for cable companies and their box rentals.

  15. oldthor says:

    So if I’m a scalper all I have to do is start a business and call it say…. Scalpmaster then I could charge whatever i want??? Sounds like Ticket master wants the law to cut the competition but exempt themselves from the scalping rules because their a business and their business is scalping tickets!

  16. Duke of URL says:

    I have never understood this issue. The value of something is whatever someone will pay for it – therefore, what is wrong with selling tickets (or anything else) at the level that demand provides?

  17. PhiTauBill says:

    Woohoo, Arkansas, give them Ticketbastards a whoopin!

  18. exconsumer says:

    Ha.

    “The perennial Worst Company In America contender argued that the law is intended to regulate scalpers, and not licensed ticket sellers like Ticketmaster.”

    No no your honor, we’re a business. With a logo and everything. . . so we can’t, by definition, be subject to any laws.

  19. Professor59 says:

    I’d love to see reform in ticket sites, but it will never happen. Most NFL teams sell their season tickets directly yo StubHub and the like, legally blocking fans from paying face value. Before the first game, they are available for triple face value, and the teams can announce sellouts. They sold out, all right.
    Not much better for concert tix, down to even the smallest venues in church basements on folding chairs. It’s ridiculous, and it’s not like the bands get an extra nickel out of it.
    (Oops, I almost said “nickel back”.)