Ticketmaster settles with FTC over Springsteen tickets

Bloomberg News

Ticketmaster agreed to pay refunds to Bruce Springsteen fans to settle complaints it scalped tickets for 14 of the rock star’s concerts, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced.

Ticketmaster, now a unit of Live Nation Entertainment Inc. under a merger the government approved last month, was accused of steering customers to its resale Web site a year ago and inflating the price of tickets for concerts last May and June. Springsteen described the practice as “scalping.”

The FTC said Ticketmaster also failed to tell consumers that resale tickets for the Springsteen concerts that were advertised on might not actually be available. Some tickets were being sold speculatively, the commission said.

“Buying tickets should not be a game of chance,” Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement today.

Leibowitz said Ticketmaster directed customers to its companion TicketsNow Web site without fully disclosing what it was up to, the FTC said. The commission labeled the practice “deceptive bait-and-switch tactics.”

Today’s settlement will benefit fans who are entitled to refunds because they were overcharged by purchasing tickets on TicketsNow. The FTC said in some cases purchasers paid four times the face value of the tickets.

Separate Settlement

Ticketmaster last year reached a separate settlement with New Jersey regulators, agreeing to provide 2,000 tickets for people who complained. The company also agreed to stop linking to TicketsNow from the Ticketmaster Web site for at least a year and to limit advertising for the resale site.

Ticketmaster purchased TicketsNow in February 2008 for $279.4 million, according to a March 31 regulatory filing. The site competes against EBay Inc.'s StubHub, the largest ticket reseller Web site.

Ticketmaster’s merger with concert promoter Live Nation was approved by the Justice Department last month. The combined company agreed to a number of conditions to win the approval, including licensing ticketing software to rival concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Ticketmaster, the leader in ticketing and artist management, and Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, merged to form a music industry power. The company is based in Beverly Hills.