Ticketmaster faces a class action lawsuit over the secret scalping racket it's allegedly been running, enabling bots to scoop up tickets to big-name events the moment they appear on the site. Those bots immediately go on to spam third-party retail platforms with marked up tickets, funneling double the service fees into Ticketmaster's pocket.
"Have you ever wondered why Ticketmaster has been unable to rid itself of the scalpers who purchase mass quantities of concert or sports tickets from its website and then resell them for much more minute later?" the lawsuit asks. "A better question all along may have been why did Ticketmaster not want to." According to the suit, the ticket purchasing platform "hasn't wanted to rid itself of scalpers" because it has partnered with them.
Lead plaintiff and Ticketmaster customer Allen Lee believes the company scammed him on multiple occasions and engaged in "unlawful and unfair business practices" that translated to the "unjust enrichment" of Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment. Lee asks "restitution of money paid to Ticketmaster for secondary market sales," on top of reimbursement for attorney's and legal fees.
Lee's complaint follows a journalistic investigation that embedded two undercover reporters in a Las Vegas ticket sales conference over the summer. In July, CBC and the Toronto Star captured Ticketmaster officials on camera, peddling the company's professional scalping program to potential recruits. The company seemed to be grooming people who would deploy bots to net big batches of tickets as soon as they went on sale, and then quickly flip them on a platform Ticketmaster allegedly developed specifically for this purpose: TradeDesk. Ticketmaster takes a cut of the initial sale—that super fun, exorbitant service fee you may have encountered at checkout—plus a percentage of the resale it sneakily helped facilitate.
Officially, Ticketmaster policy prevents one buyer from buying too many tickets to any given event, and bars people from making fake accounts to route around purchasing limits; unofficially, a TradeDesk rep told reporters, "We don't share reports, we don't share names, we don't share account information with the primary site. Period." Separately, a Ticketmaster employee confirmed the tendency to turn a blind eye, assuring the undercover reporters: "I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred accounts. It's not something that we look at or report." And the company's "official reseller handbook" states that Ticketmaster rewards high-performing vendors who scalp through TradeDesk.
Although Ticketmaster publicly calls professional scalpers "unfair competition," the lawsuit accuses the company of secretly enlisting them to inflate profits. Taking—indeed, commissioning—kickbacks on ticket sales amounts to taking advantage of consumers, many of whom find themselves facing far higher prices as a result.
Ticketmaster had not responded to our request for comment at time of publication, but we will update if they do. The company previously denied CBC and the Toronto Star's findings in a statement, however: "It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers," a spokesperson said, adding that the company had undertaken an "internal review of our professional reseller accounts and employee practices to ensure that our policies are being upheld by all stakeholders."