Brow Beat

Ticketmaster Is Being Sued for Allegedly Encouraging Scalpers

Sheck Wes performs onstage in front of a large crowd of fans who take up most of the image.
Sheck Wes performs onstage at Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn on Sept. 29.
Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Ticketmaster has been hit with a class-action suit alleging that the site is actively encouraging ticket scalping. The suit follows an investigation by the CBC in which a representative of Ticketmaster was captured on a hidden camera saying that the use of ticket-buying bots that snap up tickets so they can be resold at a higher cost is “not something we look at or report.”

Lead plaintiff Allen Lee is suing Ticketmaster for unfair business practices and unjust enrichment, focusing on Ticketmaster’s TradeDesk platform, which allows the company to capture a piece of secondary ticket sales. The complaint asks, “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 minutes later? The answer: Ticketmaster hasn’t wanted to rid itself of scalpers because, as it turns out, they have been working with them.”

It’s true that Ticketmaster has a financial incentive for encouraging the practice. The company, owned by Live Nation, collects a service fee twice when a ticket is sold and resold. Outwardly, however, Ticketmaster’s website characterizes scalping as “unfair competition.”

According to the CBC investigation, two reporters from Canada’s CBC and the Toronto Star went undercover to Ticket Summit 2018, a ticketing and entertainment convention that took place in July. The journalists allegedly observed a Ticketmaster employee give a demonstration of how to use TradeDesk, including informing participants that “100 scalpers in North America, including a handful in Canada, are using TradeDesk to move between a few thousand and several million tickets per year.” The report describes the following exchange:

One of the presenters, who was unaware he was speaking with undercover journalists, insisted that Ticketmaster’s resale division isn’t interested in whether clients use automated software and fake identities to bypass the box office’s ticket-buying limits.

“If you want to get a good show and the ticket limit is six or eight … you’re not going to make a living on six or eight tickets,” he said.

The CBC also reportedly obtained a copy of Ticketmaster’s “resellers handbook,” which offers discounted fees to scalpers who clear $500,000 and $1 million in annual sales.

Ticketmaster has responded by denying the allegations and stating that it was “categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets.”