LOS ANGELES (CN) - Live Nation Entertainment, formerly known as Ticketmaster, abuses its ticket monopoly to gouge music fans for surcharges, a class action claims in Federal Court.
"This case has been brought to find a common answer to a lingering legal question," lead plaintiff Brendon Holub says: "Can monopolist Live Nation overcharge ticket buyers with add-on fees to event ticket prices rather than selling tickets using a clear and conspicuous 'all-in' price?
"Plaintiff brings this case to determine once and for all if defendant's practice of charging add-on fees is an unfair business practice and whether defendant must use 'all-in pricing.'"
Since its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster, Beverly Hills-based Live Nation has dominated ticket sales, has a monopoly on venues that host live shows, and controls promoters nationwide, according to the lawsuit.
Citing 4-year-old data used by ticket tracker Pollstar, Holub claims that Live Nation sold 70 percent of tickets for concerts by major artists in 2008, and that it controls amphitheaters in 18 of the 25 largest markets in the country.
"Live Nation controls the best and most of the contemporary outdoor amphitheaters (47) across the country where performances by the top artists in the world are staged. Live Nation currently owns 46 clubs and theaters, and 11 'House of Blues,' and continues to obtain more," the complaint states.
Live Nation earned more than $1.3 billion in the United States in 2008 and promoted shows that sold 46 percent of the tickets sold at major concert venues in 2009, according to the complaint.
Holub claims Live Nation's merger with Ticketmaster allowed it to "directly sell tickets to concerts that it promoted," and gives it "unilateral power to raise the price of tickets in a dominant segment of the market for concert tickets."
He claims that Live Nation broke a promise to eliminate "unnecessary and unwanted" add-on fees in favor of all-in pricing, which allows music fans to see the total retail price before they buy tickets.
"Defendant has not made a clear, simple transaction for the consumer," the complaint states. "Defendant continues use their monopoly market power to charge unfair fees and refuses to provide consumers with a clear simple transaction through implementation of 'all in' pricing. Due to lack of competition created by the merger defendant has been non-responsive to consumer demand and has extracted unfair overcharges in the form of add-on fees to ticket prices."
Add-ons to ticket prices have "persisted for years and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in unfair transaction costs," according to the complaint.
In the 1990s Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder protested Ticketmaster's practice of using add-on fees, Holub says. But years later, the practice continues.
"This case seeks to answer that common question with the common answer - Yes, add-on fees to events tickets charged by Live Nation are unfair and thus unlawful," the complaint states.
Holub is represented by Grenville Pridham of Tustin. He seeks an injunction barring Live Nation from charging add-on fees, and restitution under California unfair competition law.
Live Nation Entertainment did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.