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StubHub sues Ticketmaster over ‘official’ resale sites

By | Published on Tuesday 31 March 2015


Having lobbied away the most important of the rules that were proposed for the new Consumer Rights Act – the rule that a seller’s identity must be revealed – the UK secondary ticketing market will likely carry on pretty much as before despite the new legislation forcing online ticket touts to provide buyers will a little more information about the tickets they are selling. Though had the more draconian measure become law (and had it been enforceable) it would have provided an interesting test.

Because officially the live industry hates touting, and only gets involved in the secondary market on the basis that “if you can’t beat them, you have to join them”. But some ticketing firms, promoters and artists now make decent revenues from participating in the ticket tout party, so would they really bail on it if effective regulation could be installed? Of course, the likes of Ticketmaster will argue that effective regulation is impossible, so, let the party roll on.

Meanwhile in the US, secondary ticketing firms from inside and outside the live sector are going to war in the courtroom, because Live Nation’s Ticketmaster has been sued by eBay-owned StubHub, over its official alliance with the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Because Ticketmaster is not only the primary ticket seller for the Warriors, but it also operates the official season ticket resale platform, where tickets can be officially resold. With that in mind, the basketball team threatens to cancel any tickets it sees being touted on other secondary sites, like StubHub.

It can make that threat because reselling a ticket is usually a breach of the terms and conditions of the original purchase (which is why forcing sellers to reveal their identities in the CRA would have been a big deal, because promoters could use that information to cancel all and any tickets being resold).

But, says StubHub, that’s anti-competitive behaviour on Ticketmaster’s part. The eBay firm says in its complaint: “If you are a Warriors fan and you want season tickets, you have one choice: buy them through Ticketmaster”. The company’s legal rep Michelle Fang then told Bloomberg that her client was suing in the interest of Warriors’ fans, adding of Ticketmaster’s motives: “Given that they haven’t been able to win when we’ve competed on a level playing field, they’re trying to compete unfairly”.

But Ticketmaster hit out at the litigation, saying: “We are disappointed that StubHub has filed a baseless lawsuit that asks the courts to help prop up its business against true fan-friendly competition. NBA teams like the Golden State Warriors have implemented ticket exchanges powered by Ticketmaster because they want ticket resale to be a secure experience, not an opportunity for scalping and fraud”.

StubHub and Ticketmaster have had legal skirmishes before, but if this gets to court, the case could again put the spotlight on how the ‘anti-touting’ live entertainment industry dabbles in the secondary market.