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Ticketmaster to change online sales system; Ontario lawsuit continues

Ticketmaster agreed Monday to change its online ticket sales process after butting heads with Bruce Springsteen and his fans, but an Ontario lawsuit against the company will go ahead.

Ticketmaster agreed Monday to change its online ticket sales process after butting heads with Bruce Springsteen and his fans, but an Ontario lawsuit against the company will go ahead.

Ticketmaster reached a settlement with New Jersey, where the Springsteen concert in question had been scheduled, said state Attorney General Anne Milgram.

The changes apply to all Ticketmaster sales in the U.S., she said. Ticketmaster did not admit wrongdoing but agreed to pay the state $350,000, Milgram said.

The company will also compensate ticket holders who complained and change how it handles secondary sales, she said.

Springsteen ticket seekers were redirected from the main Ticketmaster site to a subsidiary that charged more. Milgram said at the time that redirecting them might have violated the state's consumer fraud act.

Ticketmaster said in a statement Monday that the problem was caused by a software glitch. The "voluntary agreement" with the attorney general just formalizes changes the company had already implemented, the company said.

A spokesman for Ticketmaster wouldn't say what effect Monday's settlement would have in Canada.

Earlier this month, two Canadian firms filed a class-action suit in Ontario claiming Ticketmaster had broken the province's anti-scalping laws by directing consumers to TicketsNow, a resale site owned by Ticketmaster where tickets are generally far more expensive than the original price.

Ticketmaster has said it removed all links to TicketsNow from its Canadian website.

Luciana Brasil of Vancouver-based Branch McMaster, one of the Canadian law firms involved in the case, said Monday that the Ontario lawsuit would continue.

"(Ticketmaster's) behaviour has changed, it's moving in the right direction but it's not the full extent of the change we would like to see," she said.

Brasil said that only Americans who complained about the Ticketmaster policy will benefit from Monday's agreement. She added that other issues alleged in the Ontario lawsuit remain unresolved.

"Even though consumers are not being redirected to TicketsNow, there's still a secondary market in place in Ontario and people are still buying tickets above face value when that is something that's not allowed under Ontario legislation," Brasil said.

The Ontario suit was filed on behalf of Henryk Krajewski of Toronto, who in September bought two tickets for a Smashing Pumpkins show at Massey Hall from TicketsNow for C$533.65, the court documents state.

The tickets would have cost about $130 if they had been available from Ticketmaster.

Ticketmaster chairman Barry Diller has said that lawsuit is "without merit."

Meanwhile, Milgram said her office received about 2,200 complaints from people unable to buy Springsteen tickets for a face-value price of US$65 or $95. They were instead directed to TicketsNow, where tickets retailed for $200 to $5,000 apiece.

The settlement comes as Ticketmaster faces scrutiny for a proposed merger with the concert promotion giant LiveNation. The merger will be the subject of U.S. congressional hearings Tuesday in Washington.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he thinks the merger would violate antitrust rules by giving Ticketmaster a near-monopoly on the concert ticket market. Schumer said Monday that he welcomed the New Jersey settlement.

"While we are pleased Ticketmaster has acknowledged its mistake ... giving Ticketmaster near total control over the distribution of concert tickets here in New York and across the country is a recipe for disaster," he said.

 
 
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