On Monday, Taylor Swift’s fans went to court in Los Angeles to confront Ticketmaster over their mishandling of online ticket sales for the singer’s recent tour.
Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation are being sued by Taylor Swift’s fans across the country for their “unlawful conduct” during the chaotic ticket sales of her tour in December. The plaintiffs claim that Ticketmaster violated antitrust laws and other regulations.
During the court hearing, the arguments presented by disappointed fans were mostly procedural. The plaintiffs are seeking a minimum of $2,500 in damages from Ticketmaster. However, lead plaintiff Julie Barfuss from Salt Lake City stated that the case is about giving ordinary fans a fairer chance to see their favorite artists.
“I tried in a total of 41 times that first day to get tickets. It kicks you out into the queue, and you’re back in, and then I kept getting errors,” Barfuss told CNN. “Then, I again spent a couple of hours trying to do it the second day. When I finally got in and was going to buy tickets, they were like $1400.”
Ticketmaster is seeking a motion to compel arbitration, which would require the plaintiffs to resolve the issue outside of court. The plaintiffs’ lawyer must provide emails for the 340 potential plaintiffs by the end of the month.
According to John Genga, the lead plaintiff’s counsel, there are no expected “smoking guns” from Ticketmaster in today’s hearing. However, he argued that the entire fan experience is relevant to the case, including any delays or obstacles they encountered while purchasing tickets.
Genga stated, “The entire experience is going to be relevant to even arguing the motion to compel arbitration. Because if they were hurrying through or stuck in a queue for eight hours, that may all affect whether they knowingly agreed to something.”
Jurisdiction was also discussed during the hearing, but a decision has yet to be made. The plaintiffs request that the case be heard in the state rather than federal court.
According to the lawsuit, Ticketmaster and its parent company are being accused of engaging in anti-competitive behavior by allegedly imposing higher prices on fans during the presale, sale, and resale markets. It alleges that Ticketmaster required concertgoers to use its website exclusively, controlling all registration and access to Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour.”
Penny Harrison, a Swift fan, told CNN that the lawsuit is not about money but rather about TicketMaster’s monopoly in the ticketing market. Fans hope that this case will bring about competition and lower ticket prices in the future. The lawsuit seeks a penalty of $2,500 for each violation, which could be substantial given a large number of affected fans.
According to the lawsuit, Ticketmaster’s anti-competitive tactics and contracts with major stadiums left Swift with no choice but to use Ticketmaster as the sole ticket seller for her huge fan following. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Ticketmaster benefits from ticket resales in the secondary market by charging service fees for fan-to-fan exchanges.
The presale for Swift’s “The Eras Tour” was a fiasco, with millions of fans unable to purchase tickets due to website crashes and “insufficient remaining ticket inventory.” Ticketmaster provided presale codes to “Verified Fans,” despite a shortage of seats, leading to frustration and anger among fans. The company apologized for the debacle, and a Justice Department investigation and congressional hearing followed.
Plaintiff Joe Akmakjian of Denver sees Ticketmaster as a predatory monopoly and worries that monopolies in other industries could follow if this case is not resolved.
“We want answers. We want to know why it happened. We want to know could it have been prevented? If it was preventable, why wasn’t it? What can we do to make the live event industry more accessible to the average consumer?” Akmakjian told CNN.