Citizen Uses Baltimore’s Old Scalping Law To Give Ticketmaster A Swift Kick In The Pants

Oh hey, Ticketmaster — you like fees so much? How about you plunk down a little extra cash, say $1,000 per ticket, for violating a 1948 Baltimore anti-scalping ordinance? Not very fun, huh? The ticketing behemoth and city politicians are up in arms after a resident used his knowledge of the old rule to his advantage.

In 2011 the man was so upset at having to pay $12 in fees on a $52 ticket to see Jackson Browne at Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House that he sued the venue, along with Ticketmaster. He alleged in that lawsuit that he’d been ripped off by “exorbitant charges,” and cited a 1948 ordinance that bars companies from charging fees more than $0.50 on top of a ticket’s stated price.

Maryland’s highest court just ruled last month that Ticketmaster’s fee do violate that law — originally designed to prevent scalping of Navy football tickets — but now it’s up to a federal court to determine whether or not Ticketmaster must stop charging those fees and issue refunds to customers.

City politicians and those who run the city’s venues are worried that if Ticketmaster has to shell out $1,000 per ticket violation, the company won’t want to handle events there anymore. A City Council finance committee is expected to vote this week on a measure that would make an exception for Ticketmaster’s and similar companies’ fees, reports the Baltimore Sun.

“I don’t understand why the city would want to change a good law that protects its citizens,” the 50-year-old tells the paper. The law “just means that the face price of the ticket has to be what the ticket actually costs,” he said.

The venues don’t want to be responsible for processing large volumes of tickets, however, and the city doesn’t want Ticketmaster’s business to go bye-bye.

“One big concern is Ticketmaster would say, ‘We’re not doing business in Baltimore anymore if we can’t charge more than 50 cents,'” says the city councilman who introduced the bill of exception for ticket companies. “Fifty cents is much too small an amount for their services.”

While we’re not a fan of being forced to pay high surcharges on tickets either, only charging $0.50 over the face value of a ticket could make it hard for some smaller companies to make enough money to cover costs like employees’ salaries.

“As a ticket provider, we don’t make anything off face value,” says Ticketfly’s marketing manager.”The only way we make money is from the service fee.”

A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said her administration “supports a bill that allows local culture venues to continue their long-standing operations, including reliance on third-party ticket distribution services, temporarily while the City Council modernizes the law with regard to ticket sales.”

He added that the bill could be a temporary fix to deal with the court ruling while the City Council comes up with a long-term solution.

*Thanks for the tip, Lisa!

City politicians rush to save Ticketmaster’s user fees [Baltimore Sun]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.