|Arkansas Deceptive Practices Law Applies To Ticketmaster, Court Rules
Posted: April 26, 2012
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The state's law on deceptive practices applies to Ticketmaster and its parent company, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday, but the high court stopped of offering an opinion on whether the company's fees violate the statute.
The court's 4-3 split decision comes after Corey McMillan, an Arkadelphia man, said he was charged nearly $50 in fees to buy four tickets to see country music singer Jason Aldean in concert. McMillan sued Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Ticketmaster.
McMillan's attorneys are seeking class-action status and argue that Ticketmaster is violating Arkansas' law on deceptive trade practices. Attorneys for Ticketmaster, however, argued that the law did not apply to the company.
Ticketmaster took the case to federal court, where a judge asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to figure out whether the state law applies to an entity such as Ticketmaster.
The state's highest court sided with McMillan, saying the law "does not exclude exclusive ticket agents."
Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Karen R. Baker said the court "offer(s) no opinion on whether the additional fees or charges by Ticketmaster violate" the law.
But in a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Jim Hannah said that the majority did establish Ticketmaster's criminal liability.
"The majority has abandoned its judicial role as the interpreter of the statue and by ignoring the clear legislative intent has assumed the legislative role of declaring an act criminal," Hannah wrote.
Hannah went on to say that the part of the law in question was intended to control ticket scalping.
"By any analysis, Ticketmaster is not scalping tickets; it is the seller in the first instance," he wrote.
Associate Justice Robert L. Brown went so far as to call the majority of the court's conclusion "absurd."
"With today's interpretation by the majority, all first-party ticket sellers across the State, will be subject to fines for a criminal violation if they charge fees similar to those charged by Ticketmaster," Brown wrote in his dissent. "This absurd result is not what the General Assembly intended."
McMillan said that at an advertised price of $42.75 each, the four concert tickets should have cost $171. Instead, he paid a total of $220.60, including the fees. His attorneys said the charges included a convenience fee of $9.40 per ticket, a facility charge of $2 per ticket and a processing fee of $4 on the whole order.
Chad Pekron, an attorney for Ticketmaster and Live Nation, declined to comment Thursday.
One of McMillan's attorneys, Todd Turner, said he's pleased with the court's ruling.
"Under (Ticketmaster's) theory, they could add a $100 charge if they wanted to," Turner said. "There'd be no limit to what they could tack on."
McMillan is not the first person to challenge Ticketmaster fees.
A pair of men had sued in Los Angeles over fees they were charged for purchasing tickets to Wilco and Bruce Springsteen concerts. A settlement that received preliminary approval from a judge last year would give customers a $1.50 credit on up to 17 tickets they purchased between specific dates in 1999 and 2011 that they can use on future purchases.