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Ticketmaster Canada pays $4.5 million to settle case over misleading pricing

By | Published on Friday 28 June 2019


Live Nation’s Ticketmaster will pay CAN$4.5 million to settle a legal action pursued by the Canadian Competition Bureau over allegations that the ticketing firm misled consumers by not declaring all of its booking fees upfront. The payment to the regulator breaks down as a CAN$4 million fine and CAN$500,000 to cover the Bureau’s legal costs.

Booking fees and commissions in the ticketing sector have long been controversial, of course. All the more so when they are added at the very final stage of the ticket purchasing process, increasing the total cost as the transaction is completed.

In the UK, this practice has most recently been in the spotlight in the context of the secondary ticketing market. Last year the Advertising Standards Authority demanded that ticket resale sites like StubHub and Viagogo – where fees and commissions are often significantly higher – declare the full cost of buying a ticket upfront.

However, in many countries both primary and secondary ticketing firms are accused of misleading customers with incomplete pricing information. For example, the issue came up in a recent debate on the ticketing business at large in the US.

There representatives from both primary and secondary ticketing sites indicated that they would welcome new regulations forcing the upfront declaration of the total cost of any one ticket. That was on the basis that such transparency is consumer friendly, but no one wants to be first to adopt that practice because, to consumers casually browsing the internet for ticket buying options, it would make the early-adopter sites look more expensive.

North of the border in Canada, the Competition Bureau reckoned there were already legal grounds to force ticketing firms to declare all their fees upfront. It called on the ticketing sector to do just that in July 2017, subsequently taking Ticketmaster to the Competition Tribunal seeking an injunction forcing the major ticketing agent to fall in line.

In a statement yesterday, the Bureau said that its “investigation concluded that Ticketmaster’s advertised prices were not attainable because they added mandatory fees during the later stages of the purchasing process. In the Bureau’s view, the price representations were misleading even though the amount of the fees was disclosed before consumers completed their transaction. The Bureau concluded that the additional fees often added more than 20% and, in some cases, over 65% to the advertised prices”.

Confirming it had reached a settlement with Ticketmaster, it went on: “As part of a consent agreement registered with the Competition Tribunal, [Ticketmaster] will also establish a compliance program to ensure their advertising complies with the law and will implement new procedures to prevent advertising issues in the future”.

The regulator also added that “Ticketmaster has already made a number of changes to its websites and mobile applications, and has applied these changes across Canada”.

The Live Nation ticketing business honed in on that fact when responding to yesterday’s confirmation of its multi-million dollar settlement with the Competition Bureau. “Last July, Ticketmaster was the first ticket company to voluntarily ensure total prices were displayed upfront to Canadian consumers”, it said in a statement. “We look forward to the Competition Bureau and individual provinces ensuring that all other ticket marketplaces in the live event industry meet the same standards”.

It went on: “Ticketmaster welcomes new consumer protection legislation across Canada to improve transparency, fight cheater bots that steal tickets, and reduce fraud in the secondary sales market and will continue to actively participate in federal and provincial conversations to create the safest ticketing environment for fans and event owners alike”.