Ticketmaster Must Pay Up to Springsteen Fans

FTC rules that the company must refund money to consumers caught in bait-and-switch

Last Updated: February 18, 2010 @ 6:25 PM

Ticketmaster must refund money for thousands of tickets it sold well above face value on14 Bruce Springsteen concerts last May and June.

The ruling was made by the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday, to settle bait-and-switch charges against the company.

Consumers charged that when they went to Ticketmaster to buy Springsteen tickets after his Super Bowl performance, they were referred to its TicketsNow subsidiary, which sells tickets at a premium of up to quadruple of face value.

There they were offered tickets at substantial premium — sometimes, for tickets TicketsNow didn’t even have.

At the time TicketMaster said the referrals occured because of a programming error.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz expressed skepticism about the company’s excuse.

“We were very troubled by the behavior of TicketMaster,” he said in a statement, calling attempts to get consumers to pay more than face value for tickets “the seamy underbelly” of ticketing companies.

“Ticket buying should not be a game of chance,” he said.

He said that TicketMaster didn’t make clear consumers were being referred and also didn’t make clear that TicketsNow was taking orders for tickets it didn’t have, with the hope it would be obtain the tickets later.

For one of the concerts, in Washington D.C., TicketsNow never got the tickets. In other concerts, TicketsNow sold tickets in premium seating but later provided tickets to less preferred seats.

The settlement requires TicketMaster and TicketsNow to refund money for tickets not provided and refund any premium paid by buyers for tickets sold above face value.

Leibowitz also announced that in addition to settling with Ticketmaster, the FTC is warning 10 other ticket brokers about bad practices, including selling “phantom tickets.”