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Ticketmaster’s allegedly biased arbitrator criticised over moves to limit discovery

By | Published on Thursday 13 October 2022


The use of arbitration services by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster whenever a customer raises a significant issue with the ticketing giant is in the spotlight again, with one group of aggrieved ticket-buyers saying that the new arbitrator used by the ticketing firm should be forced to hand over more documentation so that accusations of bias can be properly assessed.

A number of lawsuits filed against Ticketmaster by customers have ended up being forced into an arbitration process outside of court and behind closed doors, because when people buy tickets from the ticketing site the terms and conditions say that that is how grievances should be dealt with.

Attempts to circumvent arbitration by arguing that this commitment is hidden away from customers in hard to find terms have generally been unsuccessful. However, in one more recent dispute plaintiffs have tried to argue against arbitration by raising issues with Ticketmaster’s chosen arbitrator.

The ticketing firm used to use a company called JAMS for arbitration, but then switched over to a newer player in the arbitration space called New Era ADR. Ticketmaster argues that New Era ADR are better set up to deal with complaints where there are lots of concurrent complainants, as is common in the ticketing market.

However, the aggrieved ticket-buyers argue that New Era ADR is more biased in favour of Ticketmaster than JAMS, and that therefore their complaints won’t get a fair hearing.

With that in mind, the ticket-buyers have been seeking access to various documents from New Era ADR that provide more information about the specific arbitration processes it employs, and its connections with Ticketmaster.

For its part, New Era ADR has been trying to cut back a subpoena from the court that orders it to share such documents with the ticket-buyers. And said ticket-buyers formally objected to those moves in a court filing this week.

According to Law360, they said: “Defendants switched from JAMS, an established arbitration provider, to New Era, a two-year-old start-up that touts its ties to defendants and has little experience administering arbitrations. New Era now seeks to flaunt the court’s order by producing only cherry-picked materials that it selected through a black-box search process”.

In case you wondered, the actual complaint from the ticket-buyers here relates to those allegations that Live Nation and Ticketmaster – as dominant players in both tour promotions and ticketing – act in an anticompetitive way. But this lengthy detour around arbitration obligations and systems is proving quite the distraction from all that.