Ticketmaster and parent company Live Nation Entertainment are again being accused of violating antitrust laws by monopolizing ticket sales. This time a group of plaintiffs from California, Ohio and Florida have filed a putative nationwide class action accusing the companies of coercing venues into boycotting competing ticketing platforms and deploying unconscionable arbitration agreements.
Pointing to reduced competition and inflated ticket prices, a lawsuit filed Tuesday in California federal court by attorneys at Quinn Emanuel and Keller Lenkner argues a 2010 merger between the two companies has allowed them to overcharge consumers. “The combined Live Nation/Ticketmaster behemoth has enormous, and unique, market power in primary ticketing and concert promotion services, and has shown it is unafraid to use that power,” reads the complaint, which is embedded below.
The complaint details an allegedly illegal business arrangement under which Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the U.S., threatens to withhold shows from major venues if they do not select Ticketmaster as their primary ticketing service provider.
“Defendants have continued to flourish by engaging in anticompetitive exclusive dealing with major concert venue operators (which are bolstered by Ticketmaster’s relationship with Live Nation Entertainment), as well as numerous other unfair and anticompetitive acts discussed herein that are aimed at eliminating and/or minimizing all competition, both in primary ticketing services and, more recently, secondary ticketing services,” the lawsuit states.
Ticketmaster has a market share exceeding 70 percent of primary ticketing services for major concert venues, according to the complaint, and in 2015 was the platform used for 85 percent of Taylor Swift tickets.
Consumers have long complained of costly ticket prices, hidden fees and a lack of alternatives other than Ticketmaster to purchase concert tickets.
The two proposed classes include all U.S. event-goers who purchased a primary ticket and paid associated fees using Ticketmaster or an affiliated entity and those who purchased tickets on the secondary market using the platform or another service owned by Live Nation at any point since 2010.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation in 2020 were hit with a similar antitrust suit, also filed by attorneys at Quinn Emanuel, that was sent to arbitration. U.S. District Judge George Wu in September ruled that consumers are locked into contracts that require them to resolve their claims outside of court.
The newly-filed complaint argues that the arbitration agreements are unenforceable because they require consumers to submit to unfair proceedings, and also challenges a recent move from using established arbitration and mediation provider JAMS to a start-up called New Era ADR that lets businesses keep the service on retainer through a subscription service.
The filing of the complaint also follows the Justice Department concluding that Live Nation violated restrictions placed on its merger with Ticketmaster. Under a 2019 settlement to resolve the allegations, Live Nation is subject to a penalty of $1 million if it threatens to retaliate against a venue that chooses another ticketing services provider.
Ticketmaster and Live Nation have not yet responded to requests for comment.