Ark. court hears arguments in Ticketmaster case

Jeannie Nuss, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- An Arkansas man who paid nearly $50 in fees when he bought concert tickets through Ticketmaster challenged the charges at the state Supreme Court on Thursday.

Corey McMillan sued Ticketmaster LLC and its parent, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., last year after he bought four tickets to see country singer Jason Aldean in concert.

Lawyers for McMillan are seeking class-action status and argue that Ticketmaster is violating Arkansas' law on deceptive trade practices. Attorneys for Ticketmaster and Live Nation say the state statute doesn't apply to them.

Rodney Moore, an Arkadelphia attorney representing McMillan told the Supreme Court that the purchase of a ticket is a simple transaction.

"Yet, when (customers) get their receipt, it reads like a phone bill with all the additional charges," Moore said.

Chad Pekron, an attorney for Live Nation and Ticketmaster, said venues like the one where Jason Aldean performed, contract with companies such as Ticketmaster to provide customers with different ways to purchase tickets.

"In this case, the petitioner, Corey McMillan, instead of having to drive 140 miles roundtrip ... was able from the comfort of his home to get online and buy tickets," Pekron told the Supreme Court.

Several of the justices, including Associate Justice Donald L. Corbin, pushed for more information on what qualifies as the box office ticket price.

"How do we know what we're paying for?" Corbin asked.

Pekron said customers know how much they are paying for the tickets, including charges, when they buy them.

"In this case, Ticketmaster's labeling of extra charges as 'convenience fees,' 'facility fees' and 'processing fees,' is nothing more than a device to exact more than the actual ticket price from consumers," McMillan's attorneys wrote in a court document filed last year.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation's legal team argued that Arkansas' law on deceptive trade practices prohibits ticket scalping and that the statute doesn't apply to them because "Ticketmaster does not resell tickets to the public."

Ticketmaster took the case to federal court, where a judge asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to figure out whether the state law applies to an entity like Ticketmaster.

McMillan said that at an advertised price of $42.75 per ticket, the concert tickets he purchased should have cost $171. Instead, he paid a total of $220.60 once the fees were tacked on.

His attorneys said the charges included a convenience fee of $9.40 per ticket, a facility charge of $2 per ticket and a processing fee of $4 on the whole order.

"The biggest of these fees is labeled a convenience charge, with no real definition of what convenience is," Moore told The Associated Press.

McMillan is not the first person to challenge Ticketmaster fees.

A pair of men had sued in Los Angeles over fees they were charged for purchasing tickets to Wilco and Bruce Springsteen concerts. A settlement that received preliminary approval from a judge last year would give customers a $1.50 credit on up to 17 tickets they purchased between specific dates in 1999 and 2011 that they can use on future purchases.

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Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss