“They squeeze the die-hard fans for as much as possible”: Why one lawyer is leading a class-action lawsuit against Ticketmaster
Drake fans are suing the company over the astronomical price of tickets. Thousands of concert-goers could cash in
When seats to Drake’s upcoming It’s a Blur tour went on sale last month, excitement for the OVO frontman’s first live shows in four years was quickly replaced by outrage over the price of admission, with even the nosebleeds selling for triple digits. Fans took their beef to Twitter, and now a Montreal law firm is taking it a step further, launching a class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster over inflated Drake ticket prices and similar alleged price gouging at other events. A legal motion filed late last month accuses the American ticket behemoth of “intentionally misleading consumers for financial gain,” and if the suit is successful, it could mean tens of millions in damages. “This is a tactic where they squeeze the die-hard fans for as much as possible,” says Joey Zukran, founder of LPC Avocat and lead counsel on the Ticketmaster case. Here, he explains the legal grounds for the landmark suit and why Drake may want to take a lesson from Taylor Swift.
Super-pricey concert tickets are annoying, but how are they illegal?
This particular situation was brought to my attention after tickets to Drake’s upcoming tour went on sale. It’s been a long time since Drake last toured, and obviously he has a huge fan base, so there was a lot of hype. If you have purchased tickets on Ticketmaster, you know how it works: you line up in this virtual queue where you’re told that there are 2,000 people in front of you. Then suddenly it’s your turn to choose seats, and the clock starts counting down. If you don’t purchase fast enough, you get sent to the back of the line. So you have this set-up that is designed to create a sense of urgency, especially for the superfans who are willing to pay these insane prices. The first client who joined this class action is a fan who was given the option to purchase two Drake tickets in section 332, row BB of the Bell Centre in Montreal. The cost was $789 each, and the tickets were marked platinum official. “Platinum” implies that these are good seats or, according to Ticketmaster’s website, “some of the best seats in the house.”
Let me guess: the tickets were not so hot?
They’re nosebleeds! The 13th row from the very back. I would say some of the worst.
That sucks, but why isn’t this a case of buyer beware?
Well, in Canada, and especially in Quebec, the law says that it’s more like seller beware. This is because of a decision by the Supreme Court in 2011 that addressed consumer protection and false advertising, which is the legal issue with regards to the “platinum official” claim. Especially since, as we argue in our motion, the time-strapped circumstances make it so that a consumer does not have a chance to analyze the particulars before making their purchase. And then there is the issue of the omission of important information, which is prohibited by the Consumer Protection Act. The very next day, after my client had purchased his tickets, Ticketmaster announced, Oh, by the way, Drake has a second show, and the same tickets that my client bought for $789 were suddenly listed at $420 for another day. I think it’s pretty clear that this is a tactic where they squeeze the die-hard fans for as much money as possible and then get what they can for the rest of the tickets. After that, he came to me to explore legal options.
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Is it possible that the second show is the result of popularity? The announcements always say “due to overwhelming demand…”
Do you really think that artists like Drake, Pink and Madonna aren’t anticipating sold-out shows? These tours are planned months if not years in advance, and nobody is going to convince me that they’re just adding new shows on the fly. And, if that were the case, then why are they reducing the prices by 40 per cent for the second show? Of course these are things we will learn for sure at trial. We served Ticketmaster earlier this month, and we got a response from their legal representatives saying that they plan to fight the allegations in court. So the next step is for a judge to assign a hearing date, which usually happens within a year.
Is there a reason ticket prices have skyrocketed so much in general?
I hesitate to use the word monopoly, because that means other parties are not able to start a competitive business, but it’s a de facto monopoly because Ticketmaster controls the entire market. They are a public company, accountable to their shareholders, not to their customers, so if they can find a way to make a greater profit, they’re going to do that. Five years ago, if you wanted to go to a hockey game or a concert in Montreal, you could go to Evenko. Now, for the biggest events, there’s just Ticketmaster, so the reason they are charging more is because they can.
How many people have joined the class action?
At the moment, our class includes everyone in Canada who has purchased a ticket on Ticketmaster.ca. It’s automatic, so you don’t need to sign up. Our lead plaintiff is a woman who bought “platinum official” tickets to see Pink at the Bell Centre in November and then, the same as the Drake purchaser, learned that a second show had been added and that the same tickets she had bought for $348.99 were less expensive by about $65 each. She decided to sell her tickets using Ticketmaster’s official resale platform but quickly learned that Ticketmaster would not allow her to list the tickets for less than the amount she had bought them for—even though they were now selling equivalent seats for less. So, obviously, nobody is going to buy my client’s tickets. In our motion, we are alleging that Ticketmaster and the event organizer are creating an artificial floor to ensure that their tickets can be sold at inflated prices, which amounts to price fixing and anti-competitive conduct.
That’s a big class. Could I be looking at a refund for the Alanis tickets I bought last summer?
At this stage you are in the proposed class, but ultimately the court will decide. It is fairly standard that you start with a class that is broad, and then the other side will make arguments to narrow it. Our feeling is that, because Ticketmaster is falsely inflating the price of tickets, every ticket sold on their platform is being sold in a false market.
That’s got to be millions of dollars.
Potentially tens of millions. When the case is heard, we will present our theory of damages, and then Ticketmaster will likely make arguments to narrow the class and lessen the damages. There will be expert witnesses and forensic accountants and all of that.
Where is Drake in all of this?
That’s a good question. When we launched the class action, we tweeted about it and tagged Drake, but so far he hasn’t said a word, which is disappointing, especially when you look at recent comparable examples with prominent artists. Last year, there was the situation where Ticketmaster was unable to manage the demand for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Swift spoke out against Ticketmaster prices, and ultimately the situation resulted in a Senate hearing examining the lack of competition in the industry. Last month, Robert Smith, the lead singer of The Cure, forced Ticketmaster to issue a partial refund based on “egregiously high” extra fees.
And Drake is content to sit on his piles of money while his fans get ripped off?
I want to be very careful what I say—obviously I don’t want to get sued by Drake. Do I suspect that the artist gets a percentage of sales and that they would have an interest in the tickets selling for as much as possible? Yes, but I don’t know for certain. That is something we will find out as the case continues.
But likely not before Drake tours this summer. Do you think there’s any chance he’ll address your suit from the stage?
I don’t think so. Unless he starts dropping $100 bills from a blimp flying around the arena, I’m not sure how he could.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. These allegations have not been proven in court, and Ticketmaster has not publicly commented on them.