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Eventim hits out at German regulator’s ruling on exclusivity clauses

By | Published on Tuesday 5 December 2017


German ticketing giant CTS Eventim has said it will seek to overturn a ruling by Germany’s competition regulator in relation to exclusivity clauses in its contracts with promoters.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office reckons that contract terms providing Eventim with something nearing 100% of tickets for its clients’ shows are anti-competitive, ruling that long-term clients should have the option to sell at least 20% of their tickets via other agencies.

Andreas Mundt, boss of the Federal Cartel Office, told reporters: “As the operator of the largest ticketing system in Germany, CTS Eventim holds a dominant position in the market. Under competition law, a company with such a market position has special obligations”.

He went on: “Where CTS Eventim commits its contract partners to sell tickets exclusively via its own ticketing system, the company is abusing its market power to the detriment of competition. With our decision, substantial ticket quotas will be freed up for sale via competing ticketing systems”.

The ruling on exclusivity clauses is Eventim’s second run-in with the German regulator in just the last week. Previously the Federal Cartel Office blocked Eventim’s bid to acquire Berlin-based booking agency Four Artists, part of the firm’s ongoing bid to diversify its interests in the live entertainment sector beyond ticketing.

As the company considers its options regarding its Four Artists acquisition, yesterday it confirmed it would fight the ruling on exclusivity deals. Eventim said in a statement: “The decision of the Federal Cartel Office ignores the fierce competition in the market for ticket services, which is constantly increasing as a result of frequent market entries by digital providers from Germany and abroad”.

It went on: “Against this background, we have to assume that the Cartel Office has gone into this procedure with a preconceived notion that does not adequately reflect this development. All the investigations in the three-year proceedings were apparently aimed at confirming this belief”.

And, vowing to fight, it concluded: “We regret that the agency has not adequately considered our strong counter-arguments, especially as they are supported by current studies and economic expert reports. … For these reasons, we will not accept the decision of the Federal Cartel Office and will engage the competent courts to correct it”.

Exclusivity deals in the live sector – while nothing new – have been a topic of conversation again of late, partly as a result of Songkick’s legal action in the US against Live Nation and its Ticketmaster business, in which the live giant is also accused of anti-competitive behaviour.

And then – away from ticketing – we’ve had the row between Live Nation and its rivals AEG and MSG Entertainment over the locking of venue bookings across any one company’s portfolio, which may or may not have become routine of late, depending on who you talk to.

The allegation was that MSG had been pressuring artists to play its venue The Forum when in LA whenever they were seeking to book its flagship New York arena Madison Square Garden. And, in response, AEG was likewise pressuring artists to book its LA venue the Staples Center in order to access its London base the O2 Arena.

Caught in the middle, but arguably more closely allied to MSG, Live Nation reportedly submitted a complaint about AEG’s policy to the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority. But, according to Billboard, the CMA recently declined to investigate, apparently deciding that it’s mainly an LA-based squabble that therefore falls outside its remit.

Responding to that decision, AEG has said: “Following their consideration of Live Nation’s complaint regarding our joint booking policy, we can confirm that the UK competition authority has decided not to open an investigation. We are pleased with the CMA’s decision – it is the conclusion we always expected them to reach”.