StubHub Files Antitrust Suit Against Ticketmaster, Golden State Warriors

gswticketmastereBay-owned ticket resale site StubHub has sued both Ticketmaster and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors for allegedly threatening to cancel the subscriptions of season ticket holders if they try to resell any of their tickets via StubHub.

According to the complaint [PDF] filed in a federal court in San Francisco, the Warriors already have a monopoly on primary ticket sales, which are done exclusively through Ticketmaster, and that the team and the ticket company are trying to perpetuate this control over ticket sales “by forcing Warriors fans to use only Secondary Ticket Exchange services provided by the Warriors, through Ticketmaster, for the resale of Warriors tickets.”

“They have set out to achieve this illegal outcome for a single purpose: to reap service fees and profits that they could not earn in a competitive Secondary Ticket Exchange environment,” contends the complaint, which alleges violations of the federal Sherman antitrust act and state-level laws in California.

StubHub argues that anyone who has a ticket to a Warriors game should be able to sell it on whichever secondary market they choose, but alleges that “To control and profit from the resale of Warriors tickets through such Exchanges, the Warriors and Ticketmaster have cancelled or threatened to cancel fan ticket subscriptions to Warriors season and post-season tickets if fans choose to resell their Warriors tickets over a Secondary Ticketing Exchange that competes with Ticketmaster’s,” which obviously includes StubHub. “In short, Defendants have offered a Hobson’s Choice to Warriors fans: use Ticketmaster’s Secondary Ticket Exchange exclusively or forfeit your Warriors tickets altogether. To Warriors fans, this is effectively no choice at all.”

The reseller claims that this policy resulted in an 80% drop in StubHub’s inventory of Warriors tickets between 2013 and 2014:

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“[I]f Defendants are not prevented from continuing their anticompetitive practices, Ticketmaster will become the only Secondary Ticket Exchange through which Warriors tickets will be sold,” argues StubHub, “just as it has been the only Primary Ticket Platform through which Warriors tickets (and tickets to most other large events in the United States) have been sold for years.”

The complaint alleges that Ticketmaster makes it difficult for fans to resell tickets by, for example, delaying delivery of printed tickets until only days before an event — even if they were purchased months in advance.

StubHub also cautions that if Ticketmaster’s alleged anticompetitive policies aren’t stopped now, the company is “likely to seek to replicate them with other teams and entertainment venues throughout the United States, restricting more consumers to a single Secondary Ticket Exchange and forcing competitors and innovators, such as StubHub, to exit the business. As a result, millions of Americans will find themselves captive to a monopoly Secondary Ticket Exchange unconstrained in its ability to charge supra-competitive prices for lower quality services.”