Ticket fees class ac­tion to set­tle for $420,000

City to award $3 vouch­ers to Royal Farms con­cert­go­ers

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Luke Broad­wa­ter and Tim Pru­dente lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ luke­broad­wa­ter

Bal­ti­more’s spend­ing board is ex­pected to­day to set­tle a class-ac­tion law­suit al­leg­ing the city-owned Royal Farms Arena charged con­cert­go­ers un­law­ful ticket fees.

The pro­posed $420,000 cash set­tle­ment would end a two-year fight over the suit brought by John G. Bour­geois of Perry Hall. Bour­geois al­leged that the city re­ceived il­le­gal “user” or “con­ve­nience” fees from tick­ets sold through Tick­et­mas­ter and SMG for events at the arena be­tween Aug. 1, 2011, and March 14, 2013.

Un­der terms of the set­tle­ment, the city would award $3 vouch­ers to ev­ery mem­ber of the class for fu­ture ticket pur­chases at the arena. That amount would be de­ducted from the city’s prof­its.

Bour­geois tar­geted the sale of 920,621 tick­ets. His lawyers ar­gued that the user or con­ve­nience fees on those tick­ets could to­tal $4.3 mil­lion.

The set­tle­ment, which the Board of Es­ti­mates is ex­pected to ap­prove to­day, would be the lat­est in a se­ries over the un­pop­u­lar ticket fees.

Be­fore March 12, 2013, the city had a long-stand­ing anti-scalp­ing law that pro­hib­ited ven­dors from sell­ing tick­ets for more than the pur­chase price.

The City Coun­cil voted in 2013 to al­low Tick­et­mas­ter, the city and oth­ers to charge un­lim­ited fees.

Coun­cil­man Carl Stokes, whoin­tro­duced the bill, said at the time he was con­cerned that ticket ven­dors would leave the city if they could not charge the fees.

“One big con­cern is Tick­et­mas­ter would say, ‘We’re not do­ing busi­ness in Bal­ti­more any­more if we can’t charge more than 50 cents,’ ” he said in Fe­bru­ary 2013. “Fifty cents is much too small an amount for their ser­vices.”

Stokes did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on Tues­day.

Mary Pat Clarke was one of three City Coun­cil mem­bers who voted against al­low­ing ven­dors to charge the fees.

“They’re de­cep­tive,” she said Tues­day. “They’re be­yond the value of any ser­vice pro­vided, and they hurt lo­cal res­i­dents who want to at­tend the events.”

Marce­line White, di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Con­sumer Rights Coali­tion, op­posed the fees, say­ing the coun­cil was sup­port­ing the in­ter­ests of cor­po­ra­tions over res­i­dents.

“There was an op­por­tu­nity a few years ago, when this came up, for the city to pass leg­is­la­tion get­ting rid of th­ese hid­den fees,” she said. “Now that it’s back … I hope it’s some­thing they take more se­ri­ously and give real thought to.”

Con­cert­go­ers have filed sev­eral clas­s­ac­tion suits over the fees, in­clud­ing one against Tick­et­mas­ter and The Lyric Opera House and another against Rams Head. All but Bour­geois’ suit have been set­tled, city of­fi­cials said.

An­dre Bour­geois sued Tick­et­mas­ter in 2011 af­ter be­ing charged $12 in user fees on a $52 ticket to see Jack­son Browne at the Lyric.

Ben­jamin Car­ney, of Gor­don, Wolf & Car­ney in Tow­son, was listed in on­line court records as at­tor­ney for both John and An­dre Bour­geois. Nei­ther Car­ney nor John Bour­geois re­sponded to re­quest for com­ment, and An­dre Bour­geois could not be reached. It was not clear whether the menare re­lated.

Ven­dors have de­fended their fees, say­ing it’s more con­ve­nient for fans able to or­der the tick­ets, rather than, say, camp out overnight at a ticket win­dow.

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