Photo by Pearljam.com

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by Eric Anderson

Turns out Pearl Jam was right all along.

In 1994, the popular Seattle rock group tried to proceed with a North American tour without the assistance of Ticketmaster, the continent’s largest concert promoter.  Their main objection to the promotion company stemmed from high service charges and a monopoly in the concert industry. 

“Pearl Jam felt ticketing in this country was monopolized and that live entertainment was being held hostage by Ticketmaster,” said Peter Schniedermeier, co-founder of ETM Entertainment which handled Pearl Jam’s 1994-95 tour.

The band eventually lost their battle with Ticketmaster, but 15 years later the company's questionable business tactics are being questioned throughout Canada. 

Two class action lawsuits have been launched in the past month claiming Ticketmaster overcharged for concert tickets.  In Ontario, two law firms claim Ticketmaster has broken the province’s anti-scalping laws by directing consumers to TicketsNow. 

TicketsNow was bought by Ticketmaster last year for US$265 million and often has tickets available for events its parent company claims are sold out.  The rub is that those tickets are generally far more expensive than the original price.  The law firms claim this violates Ontario’s anti-scalping laws. 

 

The example cited in Ontario is that of Henryk Krajewski.  Last November, Krajewski purchased two tickets to see The Smashing Pumpkins in Toronto for $534 on the TicketsNow website.  Those tickets would have cost him $130 on Ticketmaster, but the website claimed they were sold out and directed Krajewski to their TicketsNow website.

For a January concert for American band The Killers, the resale site charged up to $1,199 for a $44 face-value ticket, roughly a 2,500 per cent markup over the original ticket price. 

A similar class action lawsuit was filed in Winnipeg where an unnamed woman claims she was overcharged for Carrie Underwood tickets that were advertised by TicketMaster at $57.  The woman ended up purchasing two tickets for $250 each on TicketsNow.  Her lawyer, Matthew Maruca, argued that Ticketmaster’s business practices were unfair to customers. 

“It’s highly offensive to the consumer who just wants to go see a concert and pay a fair and reasonable price for it,” Maruca said in a statement issued on February 25th.

 

The public’s growing concern has prompted the federal government to take action.

 

Tony Clement, industry minister and a self-described regular concert-goer, has asked the Competition Bureau to probe whether Ticketmaster is engaged in anti-competitive behaviour to increase ticket prices. 

“I can assure this House, of course, that the government won’t sit idly by when there is potential that the companies are engaging in uncompetitive practices that are hurting consumers,” Clement told the House of Commons on March 4th.   

This is good news for concert fans in Saskatchewan. 

Once thought of as simply a place to travel through on the way to larger markets, the province is now viewed by established and buzz worthy artists as a lucrative market for concerts of all sizes.

Legends such as The Eagles and Neil Young, and critical favourites such as the UK’s Bloc Party and Brooklyn’s TV on the Radio, are all choosing to play shows in Saskatchewan over larger markets out East. 

The fairer the ticket buying process can be for consumers, the more likely those fans who wish to see their favourite artists will have the opportunity. 

For those interested in joining the class action against Ticketmaster visit www.ticketmasterclassaction.com for more information. 

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