Ticketmaster has agreed to pay $386 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the company of abusing its dominance in the ticketing industry. The settlement ends a 4-year legal battle and provides refunds to more than 50 million consumers who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster between October 21, 1999 and October 19, 2019.
Quick Facts About the Settlement
- Eligible consumers will receive a refund by email of $5.00 per ticket, up to a maximum of 17 tickets.
- The settlement resolves a lawsuit alleging Ticketmaster monopolized the primary ticketing services market.
- Ticketmaster denies any wrongdoing but agreed to the settlement to avoid further legal costs.
- Consumers don’t need to file a claim to receive a refund. Refunds will be automatically issued.
- The settlement is still pending final court approval.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the details of the class action settlement and explain how much money consumers can expect to receive.
Background of the Ticketmaster Lawsuit
In October 2019, Ticketmaster was hit with an antitrust class-action lawsuit filed by consumers in California and Wisconsin. The plaintiffs alleged that Ticketmaster abused its dominance in the primary ticket sales market to charge excessive fees.
Some key points about the lawsuit:
- Filed on behalf of all consumers who purchased tickets on Ticketmaster from 1999 to 2019.
- Claimed Ticketmaster has an illegal monopoly in the primary ticket sales market.
- Accused Ticketmaster of antitrust violations by leveraging its power to charge supracompetitive fees.
- Sought monetary damages for overcharges paid by consumers.
Ticketmaster currently has an estimated 80% market share in primary ticket sales for major concerts and live entertainment events. The lawsuit argued that Ticketmaster violated antitrust laws through exclusionary contracts with major venues and promoters that froze out competitors.
The plaintiffs claimed Ticketmaster abused its monopoly power to overcharge consumers on ticket fees. They cited Ticketmaster’s Order Processing Fees, which ranged from $5.75 to $11.75 per ticket in recent years.
Ticketmaster denied the allegations and argued the suit was without merit. They contended:
- Their fees are reasonable based on services provided such as fraud prevention.
- They face ample competition in the ticketing market.
- Their exclusive deals are justified because they invest heavily in products and services.
Despite their objections, Ticketmaster agreed to settle the lawsuit in January 2023 to avoid further protracted litigation.
Terms of the Class Action Settlement
Under the terms of the settlement, Ticketmaster agreed to provide refunds to more than 50 million consumers as compensation for alleged overcharges. Here are some key details about the settlement program:
- Settlement Amount: Ticketmaster will pay $386 million into a settlement fund.
- Class Definition: All consumers who purchased tickets on Ticketmaster.com between October 21, 1999 and October 19, 2019 are included.
- Settlement Benefit: Eligible consumers will receive $5.00 refund per ticket, up to 17 tickets, by email. No proof of purchase required.
- No Claims Process: Refunds will be automatically issued to consumers if the settlement is approved.
- Attorneys’ Fees: Plaintiffs’ lawyers may request up to 30% of the settlement fund in fees and expenses.
The email refunds are expected to be issued within 4-6 weeks if the court grants final approval. The settlement is still pending approval from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. A final approval hearing is scheduled for May 19, 2023.
Eligibility for Refunds
No action is required for consumers to receive refunds under the settlement. All consumers who purchased tickets on Ticketmaster.com between October 21, 1999 and October 19, 2019 will automatically receive an email with electronic refunds.
You are eligible if:
- You purchased tickets on Ticketmaster.com between 10/21/1999 – 10/19/2019.
- The tickets were for events in the U.S. (concerts, sports, theater, etc.).
- You have not already received reimbursement for those tickets.
The only requirement is having an email address on file with Ticketmaster. Each eligible consumer can receive refunds on up to 17 tickets without any proof of purchase.
Expected Refund Amounts
The settlement provides eligible consumers with $5.00 refund per ticket, up to a maximum of 17 tickets purchased during the class period. Here are some examples of expected refund amounts:
|$75.00 (max refund reached)
|$75.00 (max refund)
|$75.00 (max refund)
As shown in the table, the maximum refund under the settlement is $75 per consumer. This applies even if you purchased more than 17 tickets.
Estimating Your Refund
The simplest way to estimate your refund is to think about approximately how many tickets you purchased through Ticketmaster.com between 1999 and 2019.
- If you estimate you purchased 10 tickets, your refund would be around $50.
- If you purchased 5 tickets per year for 5 years, that’s 25 tickets, so your refund would max out at $75.
Most consumers won’t have complete records of all their Ticketmaster tickets for the 20-year period. But even a reasonable estimate can give you an idea of whether you’ll be receiving $5, $50, or the max $75 refund.
For heavy concertgoers, the maximum $75 refund may be on the lower side. But for more casual Ticketmaster customers, the auto refunds provide a nice hassle-free payout.
What if You Have More Than 17 Tickets?
The settlement places a limit of 17 tickets per consumer. So even if you purchased a large volume of tickets on Ticketmaster.com during the class period, your refund will still max out at $75.
The 17 ticket cap helps distribute the settlement fund more evenly across the entire class of 50 million consumers. Without a cap, high-volume ticket purchasers could deplete the fund quickly.
If you feel you paid excessive fees on more than 17 tickets, here are a couple options:
- File a Claim – The settlement allows consumers to file a claim form along with proof of purchases over 17 tickets. This gets around the 17 ticket limit, but requires effort to dig up documentation.
- Object to the Settlement – You can object to the 17 ticket cap during the approval process. But keep in mind the cap applies to everyone in the interest of fairness.
For most class members, the automatic $75 refund will be the simplest option. But the claims process is there if you want to try getting reimbursement beyond 17 tickets.
What was Ticketmaster’s Service Fee Controversy?
A major component of the class action lawsuit concerned Ticketmaster’s order processing fees, which have long sparked consumer complaints. Here’s an overview of the controversy surrounding their fees:
Ticketmaster Service Fees
Ticketmaster charges a fee called an Order Processing Fee (or Service Fee) on every ticket purchase. This fee ranges generally from $5.75 to $11.75 per ticket. It is in addition to certain other fees like Facility Charges and Shipping Fees.
Some key facts about Ticketmaster’s Order Processing Fees:
- Service Fees are kept by Ticketmaster to cover their ticketing services.
- The fees often make up 20% to 25% of a ticket’s face value.
- Fees are not shared with event organizers, venues, or artists.
- Ticketmaster generated over $2 billion in revenue from these fees in 2018.
Consumer Complaints About Fees
Ticketmaster’s Order Processing Fees have long outraged consumers and drawn criticism from watchdogs. Some of the main complaints about the fees include:
- They are unavoidable and added onto ticket prices after initial selection.
- They far exceed Ticketmaster’s actual cost of processing orders.
- They are excessively high compared to fees charged by other merchants.
- Ticketmaster does not adequately disclose fee amounts upfront.
- There is no avenue to avoid the fees when buying through Ticketmaster.
Critics argue Ticketmaster uses the fees as a mechanism to squeeze higher profits out of customers. They claim the company sets fee levels strategically based more on revenue goals than costs.
The class action lawsuit alleged Ticketmaster leverages its dominant market position to charge exorbitant fees thatexploit consumers.
Ticketmaster contends its Order Processing Fees are reasonable compensation for the services it provides such as:
- Operating and maintaining its online ticketing platform
- Ticket delivery and distribution
- Event marketing and promotion
- Customer service
- Fraud detection and prevention
They note their all-in ticket prices are still competitive with other major ticketing providers. However, Ticketmaster declined to disclose their actual costs to justify the specific fee amounts charged.
The company stands by the legitimacy of their fees, but agreed to pay $386 million to settle complaints and avoid further litigation.
Can I Get a Refund for Other Ticketmaster Fees?
The Ticketmaster class action settlement only provides refunds for Order Processing Fees, not other fees charged by Ticketmaster.
Here are some examples of other common Ticketmaster fees that are NOT eligible for refunds:
|For ticket delivery by mail or UPS.
|Fees imposed by the concert venue.
|For tickets bought at retail locations.
|Special Event Fees
|One-time fees for unique events.
The settlement is strictly limited to providing refunds on Ticketmaster’s Order Processing Fees to partially reimburse consumers for alleged overcharges. Other fees charged by Ticketmaster on tickets are not included.
Why Other Fees are Excluded
There are a couple likely reasons why the settlement is restricted to only Order Processing Fees:
- Cover Direct Damages – The Order Processing Fees went directly to Ticketmaster, so refunding those addresses the excess profits at issue.
- Avoid Redistributing Sums – Refunding fees shared with venues/artists would get complex in terms of reallocating money.
- Facilitate Settlement – Limiting the scope of fees likely helped both sides reach a settlement.
So for consumers hoping to be reimbursed for all sorts of Ticketmaster fees, the settlement falls short. But it does provide partial compensation for the fees consumers most directly overpaid Ticketmaster itself.
Impact on the Live Event Industry
The class action settlement represents a major milestone that could have ripple effects across the live entertainment and ticketing industries.
Weakens Ticketmaster’s Market Dominance
While Ticketmaster continues to hold immense market share, the settlement underscores the company’s antitrust vulnerabilities. Their restrictive business practices face growing legal and regulatory scrutiny. This litigation demonstrates live event ticketing is not immune from oversight, even though Ticketmaster has faced little competition historically. The settlement weakens Ticketmaster’s market dominance, at least modestly.
Opens Door to More Competition
Class action payouts of over $386 million, along with increased industry scrutiny, may motivate more players to find ways to compete with Ticketmaster. Smaller rivals may see opportunities to chip away at Ticketmaster’s market position by offering event organizers better terms. The settlement makes the notion of Ticketmaster alternatives seem viable, not just a far-fetched possibility. Watch for players like AEG, Eventbrite, and SeatGeek to ramp up competitive efforts.
Puts Venues in Better Bargaining Position
Venues, concert promoters, and organizers should gain leverage to negotiate better ticketing deals moving forward. Exclusive contracts with Ticketmaster have locked up the industry, but now venues can credibly threaten to consider competitive bids. Even venues with existing long-term deals can renegotiate once those contracts expire. The settlement may shift some pricing power away from Ticketmaster back towards venues.
While full impacts remain to be seen, the legal action puts meaningful pressure on Ticketmaster that will reverberate positively for consumers and across the live events business. Other monopolists should take notice that no company is untouchable if they operate anticompetitively at the expense of consumers.
The $386 million Ticketmaster class action settlement represents a huge victory for consumers that fought back against excessive ticketing fees. Eligible ticket buyers will receive welcome refunds up to $75 without any need to file claims.
The settlement addresses Ticketmaster’s highly controversial Order Processing Fees that allegedly generated massive profits based on the company’s market dominance. While the refunds won’t fully reimburse all excess fees, the payouts provide meaningful recovery for overcharged consumers.
Looking ahead, the settlement should incentivize more competition and fairness in the live entertainment ticketing industry. Venues, promoters, and rivals will gain more leverage to create alternatives to Ticketmaster’s longstanding stranglehold. This should translate into more choices, better prices and fees, and enhanced value for consumers.
The settlement money may take months to disburse and Ticketmaster still retains tremendous market power. But this marks an incremental step toward a more vibrant, consumer-friendly ticketing marketplace for live entertainment and sports.