You’ll Be Hearing from My Attorney, Me!

January 23, 2019

Many of us have probably had the thought at one point or another as a consumer transaction was going sideways that we might as well threaten to sue them for their slight. In the heat of the moment it can seem like an attractive proposition. “That’ll show them.” As the situation cools it typically comes down to the realization that even in small claims court it’s just not worth the time and effort. More importantly, the threat would often come across as empty and probably a bit hyperbolic. An attorney from Houston, Texas on the other hand decided to take his dispute with Ticketmaster in just that direction.

The problem began on January 9, 2019 when attorney Joshua Davis attempted to use Ticketmaster’s web platform to purchase tickets for a showing of Hamilton in New York. He selected the March dates he was interested in on the website but clicked the back button on his browser before completing the transaction. In doing so, he did not realize the dates reset to the beginning of January. He then proceeded to select the tickets he thought he wanted for a Thursday in March but in actuality he was purchasing them for a Thursday in January. He immediately noticed the mistake when the order confirmation screen appeared but he was not able to change it because he had already saved his credit card details and the transaction was processed as a “one-click” purchase. He tried to interrupt the order process but was unsuccessful so he was stuck with 3 tickets at a cost of $2,325.20 that he couldn’t use. Attempting to resolve the issue, he contacted Ticketmaster support.

Upon contacting Ticketmaster, Davis spoke to a “resolution specialist” who declined to make any changes such as exchanging tickets for the correct date or refunding the transaction. The only option he was given to resolve the issue was to list the tickets on Ticketmaster’s own re-sale platform, thus granting them another fee from him even if he could successfully sell the tickets to a new buyer.

Not taking “no” for an answer, he drafted and filed a complaint in Harris County court the same day, January 9, against Ticketmaster alleging Breach of Contract and Fraudulent Inducement. He even went so far as to include a claim for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and requested a jury trial.

Davis’s allegation regarding breach of contract is relatively simple. The count for fraudulent inducement is also similarly succinct but seems to imply the website error of re-setting the date when searching for tickets is a method to intentionally induce individuals to make a purchasing mistake. The most interesting of his allegations regard the Sherman Antitrust Act.

People have long pointed to Ticketmaster as a monopoly in the general area of event ticketing but the argument Davis makes is a little more directed. Specifically, he claims that because ticket transfers are restricted to Ticketmaster’s own platform they retain the ability to continue gathering fees on subsequent resales. Furthermore, he alleges Ticketmaster is further restricting trade by not allowing tickets to be sold for less than the purchase price, which he points to as artificially inflating ticket prices.

Davis’s promptness in bringing suit and the boldness of his claims likely brought this case to significant attention within Ticketmaster because he was offered and accepted a settlement within days of filing his suit.

Image: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

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