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Californian court allows class action over StubHub fees to progress

By | Published on Wednesday 13 June 2018


A class action case against StubHub, eBay’s ticket touting platform, has been allowed to proceed by a US court. It relates to the practice of adding substantial fees at the end of the ticket buying process.

Much attention in the ticket touting domain of late has been focused on champion rule breaker and unapologetic consumer confuser Viagogo. So much so, you might have forgotten that the anti-tout brigade also have issues with the other secondary ticketing sites. Even if they have generally complied with the rules in the UK.

This US case centres on a frequently raised issue that is actually addressed by the UK touting rules that Viagogo has been trying its best to ignore, but which StubHub is now complying with over here.

That is the common practice of secondary ticketing sites adding their substantial fees at the end of the transaction process. This means that tickets are initially advertised at a much lower cost than that which the buyer will actually have to pay.

In California a class action has been filed arguing that this practice violates state law. The litigation, led by plaintiff Susan Wang, cites a relatively recent case involving retailer Banana Republic, in which it was alleged that retailer broke unfair competition and false advertising laws through their use of signage promoting a sale in their stores.

Customers were only told at the checkout that the sale didn’t apply to all items, by which point said customers said they felt compelled to go through with the purchase, either out of embarrassment or because they had now gone through the hassle of queuing up to pay.

StubHub argued that the precedent set in that case didn’t apply to the way it lists ticket prices, because the circumstances were sufficiently different. Those being that it’s an online operation and it never specifically promised users a bargain. On that basis, the eBay company wanted the case thrown out.

However, a judge on Monday ruled that the case should proceed. Although he added that, while he felt the legal framework provided by the Banana Republic case was sufficient for Wang’s case to cross the first hurdle, “it may not get her past any other hurdle”. And with that in mind, he told StubHub’s legal rep that he should re-present the arguments made at this stage once again further down the line.

That said, the judge gave short shrift to StubHub’s argument that its terms told Wang that there may be additional fees on her ticket purchase. According to Law 360, he mused that it would be easy for StubHub to list its fees upfront, and that the eBay company was basically arguing that it should “get off scot-free because somewhere in what I imagine to be a prolix document, it says it’s going to charge fees”.

So, for now at least, the case continues.