Competition Bureau Finds That Ticketmaster and Live Nation Use "Deceptive Practices"

The federal Competition Bureau has taken issue with Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment Inc., accusing the companies of “deceptive practices” and ripping off consumers who purchase concert and sports game tickets from them.

The law enforcement watchdog based in Ottawa has filed an application with the Competition Tribunal, asking it to end Ticketmaster’s practice of engaging in “drip pricing,” which can lead to customers paying as much as 65% above advertised costs when buying tickets to concerts, sporting events and other live shows in Canada. The Competition Bureau is also seeking to make Ticketmaster and its parent, Live Nation, pay an administrative monetary penalty for what it calls ongoing and deliberate deceptive practices.

Findings from an extensive Competition Bureau investigation allege that Ticketmaster’s advertised prices deceive consumers by adding more mandatory costs — like service fees, facility charges or order processing fees, depending on the ticket — later on in the purchasing process.

“Ticketmaster’s mandatory fees often inflate the advertised price by more than 20% and, in some cases, by over 65%,” stated the Competition Bureau in a report on its findings. In July, the Competition Bureau asked sports and entertainment ticket vendors to review their marketing practices and display the full price up front.

A statement from Ticketmaster said that it “remains committed to getting tickets into the hands of fans and has long practised transparency to enable informed purchasing decisions.” The ticket sales and distribution company added that it is working closely with provincial governments across Canada to enhance consumer protection.

“Together, these actions send a strong signal to online retailers: consumers must have confidence that advertised prices are the ones they will pay,” Commissioner of Competition John Pecman said in a written statement.

One of the Competition Bureau’s roles is to promote truth in advertising by discouraging deceptive business practices. In recent years, the Competition Bureau has gone after car rental companies regarding their practice of drip pricing. In June 2016, Aviscar Inc. and Budgetcar Inc. agreed to pay a $3 million administrative monetary penalty and $250,000 towards the bureau’s investigative costs after an investigation found mandatory fees disclosed later when making a car reservation could boost the price by 20% over the originally advertised price.

It remains to be seen what the Competition Tribunal will rule in the Ticketmaster and Live Nation case, and how much money, if any, the companies will pay in penalties.