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July 6, 2011

Baltimore man sues Live Nation for "exorbitant" Jackson Browne tickets

A Baltimore man sued Live Nation and Ticketmaster last week saying the entertainment behemoth overcharged him for Jackson Browne tickets.

Now he's seeking to recover the service charges as well as punitive charges and attorneys' fees.

The man, Andre Bourgeois, filed the lawsuit last Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Maryland as an individual and also as a class action. Or, in other words, on behalf of anyone who bought tickets from the Ticketmaster in the past four years and felt gouged.

Though the lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount from Live Nation, the combined damages from those in the class could exceed $5 million, according to the complaint filed by Towson firm Quinn, Gordon & Wolf.

The Daily Record, which first reported the news, points out that Live Nation already settled a similar case in January for $22.3 million.

At the heart of this lawsuit is Bourgeois' allegation that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are not registered as ticket agencies by the city of Baltimore, and therefore, their "exorbitant" service fees are are tantamount to scalping under city law.

Through a spokeswoman, Live Nation had no comment. "We do not comment on pending litigation," Liz Morentin said.

Bourgeois's decision to sue started with a Jackson Browne concert in Baltimore two years ago. He bought a $52 ticket for the show from Ticketmaster, but was charged $12 in service charges.

He charges in the lawsuit that Live Nation "used their dominating market position in the business of ticket sales to impose service charges on top of the face value of tickets in violation of Baltimore City law," which allows only a .50 cent service charge over a ticket's face value, according to the lawsuit. 

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged last year, becoming an enormous conglomerate that last year took in a billion dollars in revenue from ticket sales. 

In the lawsuit, the entertainment company is charged with a total of ten counts, including being in violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

The case is in its early stages and it's not clear yet when the two sides will meet in court.  Quinn, Gordon & Wolf also declined to comment.

Update: Dean Budnick, one of the authors of the just published "Ticket Masters," said lawsuits against Ticketmaster over service fees have been pursued across the country for several years. 

But the company had typically not settled. The settlement from earlier this year started differently from the Baltimore lawsuit, Budnick said.

In that case, three individuals sued Ticketmaster for misleading them about processing fees, and eventually it turned into a class action, whereas here, Bourgeois is pursuing a class action from the start.

"The case wound on for quite some time and eventually Ticketmaster blinked as it picked up momentum," he said.

Budnick said the Baltimore lawsuit seems to to be less about service charges than the city's own laws on ticket sales. "I think it would turn on the definition of 'scalping' and 'face value' in the statute," he said.


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Posted by Erik Maza at 2:19 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Music News
        

Comments

Wow! Who wants to go in with me and do the same for Live Nation's U2 show a couple of weeks ago??

GO! Andre Bourgeois! GO! Nail them to the highest yardarm!

WHO is the world allowed "Live Nation" and "Ticketmaster" to merge in to a monopoly, anyway???

$12 is nothing. I bought a $22 ticket to see the New Deal at the Electric Factory a few months ago. The final ticket price, after fees and surcharges? $38. I'm no math addict, but that's almost double the original price. Thanks, Live Nation/Ticketmaster.

"Andre Bourgeois"? Really?

Last year I had to purchase $5 tickets that cost $20 with fees.

I like the charges $2 to mail the tickets, $2.50 to print them at home. $4 convenience fee, just to buy the ticket. Then there are the "soldout" seats before the tickets are officially on sale.

This company has monopolized the sale of tickets, even if you buy from the boxoffice.

Anything bad that happens to Ticketmaster is a good thing.

Mr. Bougeois is exposing Ticketmaster and LiveNation for what they are: High Priced Ticket Scalpers and gougers.

I'd like to know how anti-trust laws fit into this.

I threw a show a few years ago and netted 50K- can I sue TicketMaster for all the fees they added or does it belong to the people who attended my show?

It's hip to hate Ticketmaster -- I totally understand that. We all hate spending money...

However, I'm actually old enough to remember when one had to camp out the night before in order to get tickets... Or you'd have to get to Music Plus or the Wherehouse and get a randomly-assigned wristband that determined your position in the line... If the number was too high and the show sold out before you made it to the front, then oh well. You just wasted half the day for nothing.

Or, you'd have to drive 60 miles to an out-of-the-way venue to buy the tickets, blowing money on gas and chewing up a few hours of your day... And god help you if the tickets went on sale on a weekday... You'd either have to miss work/school, or miss the show.

My point is that the Ticketmaster infrastructure is actually amazingly convenient, and it's a service that costs money to provide (and yes, they're trying to make a profit, too). That simply can't be provided for a 50-cent surcharge.

Nowadays, you sit at your computer, pick out a couple of tickets, type your credit card info, and click go. And yeah, it's not free, but it certainly beats driving out of your way and standing in line for 6 hours just to have a chance at getting them.

I suspect that, given the option, most people would elect to pay the various "convenience" fees. They just want to complain about it, too.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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