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Court rejects Ticketmaster appeal in ticketbot resale class action

Ticket seller was asking court to toss out lawsuit tied to secondary ticket market
The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed an appeal by Ticketmaster and Live Nation, which face class-action lawsuits in multiple provinces for allegedly profiting from third-party ticket reselling. Ticketmaster tickets and gift cards are shown at a box office in San Jose, Calif., on May 11, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Paul Sakuma

The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear an appeal by Ticketmaster and Live Nation, which face class-action lawsuits in multiple provinces for allegedly profiting from third-party ticket reselling.

The case stems from allegations Ticketmaster facilitated mass ticket scalping in breach of its own terms of use and policy, allowing resellers to use automated “ticket bots” to scoop up event tickets beyond limits it imposes on individual buyers.

The class-action lawsuit filed in B.C. was one of five launched against the companies in 2018 after media reports about Ticketmaster’s activity in the secondary ticket market.

The Toronto Star and the CBC published stories about an undercover investigation of Ticketmaster’s pitch to so-called “ticket resellers” at a convention in Las Vegas in the summer of 2018.

In a 2023 ruling from the B.C. Court of Appeal, the panel of judges laid out the background of what spurred the lawsuits in B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

At the centre of the ensuing controversy was Ticketmaster’s pitch to professional scalpers on the use of Tradedesk, an inventory software product used by resellers to “validate and manage” tickets they sell on the company’s website.

The media reports “suggested” that the company was touting the software to ticket resellers as a means of facilitating “mass scalping,” which appeared to violate the Ticketmaster website’s terms of use.

In B.C., lead plaintiff David Gomel claims he paid about US$437 for tickets to a Bruno Mars concert in Vancouver scheduled for July 2017.

Gomel bought the tickets from StubHub, a secondary seller of event tickets that competes with Ticketmaster.

The lawsuits hinge, in part, on claims of a “general inflationary effect” on the secondary market for tickets, forcing people to pay more than face value, in violation of consumer protection legislation and the Competition Act.

The class in British Columbia claims Ticketmaster wrongfully profited by facilitating ticket reselling, while falsely claiming that members of the public would have a “fair opportunity” to buy tickets at their face value rather than at inflated markups.

In its submissions to the Supreme Court of Canada, Ticketmaster argued that its purchase policy and terms of use were agreements with individuals who used the company’s website to buy tickets, rather than “representations” to the public at-large.

The company claimed the B.C. Court of Appeal got it wrong when it allowed the class-action to move forward by turning a “consumer contract into a promise to a market at-large.”

Ticketmaster claimed in its Supreme Court of Canada submissions that the lawsuits it faces “have the potential to impact every business operating an e-commerce platform in Canada by vastly enlarging the kinds of claims they may face.”

The company claimed that hearing its appeal would give the high court “an opportunity to provide guidance on whether website terms of use are a sufficient factual basis for claims of misrepresentation to the public.”

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the company’s request to hear the appeal, upholding the B.C. Court of Appeal’s July 2023 ruling.

The company’s lawyer, the B.C. law firm representing the class and lead plaintiff David Gomel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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