Devil in the Details: Fine Print on Event Tickets May Violate Protected Resale Rights
January 15, 2015
We’ve all noticed the tiny print on tickets to events like concerts and baseball games. But most people don’t know that the fine print may violate important rights guaranteed to ticketholders under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”).Colorado law specifically protects the rights of ticketholders to resell their event tickets without restriction. Consumers holding illegal tickets can recover $500 per ticket plus costs and attorneys’ fees.
What the Law Says
Under Section 6-1-718 of the CCPA, it is illegal for an event operator—any company or person who “owns, operates, or controls” a place of entertainment—to “apply a term or condition to the original sale to the purchaser to limit the terms or conditions of resale.” This includes a term or condition that “imposes a sanction on the purchaser if the sale of the ticket is not through a reseller approved by the operator.”
What does this mean? Basically, an event operator can’t put anything in the fine print that in anyway aims to restrict how ticketholders can resell their tickets. This includes terms that require resale through approved agents, restrict the resale price, or impose other supposed restrictions. Simply by printing such terms on their tickets, event operators “apply” unlawful and prohibited terms and violate the CCPA.
History of the Law
The Colorado legislature amended the CCPA in 2008 to include a provision—Section 6-1-718—outlawing prohibitions imposed on ticket sales and resales. In addition to its text, the legislative history of the amendment makes clear that the Colorado legislature was deeply concerned with protecting the rights of consumers with respect to the resale of tickets. The legislature made sure that it secured Colorado consumers’ rights to resell event tickets in an unrestricted secondary market to whomever they wish in a manner that suits them.
Lawsuits For Violating the CCPA’s Ticket Resale Provisions
At least two lawsuits have been filed for violating this law. First, the Colorado Rockies were sued in a putative class action by a Colorado plaintiff who purchased several tickets to games at Coors Field. The Rockies suit alleged that the team violated the CCPA by writing in the fine print that, essentially, no one could resell Rockies’ tickets on an online platform other than the official website authorized by the team. Because the Rockies had an exclusive relationship with StubHub, the plaintiff alleged that no other websites were permitted under the language printed on each ticket.
The second lawsuit is pending against Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owner of venues such as the Pepsi Center and professional sports teams including the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. On Kroenke tickets, the company used to (ie., prior to the lawsuit) state in the fine print that “this ticket is non-transferable.” The plaintiff in the Kroenke case alleges that the inclusion of such a term violates the CCPA.
Case Notes and Impact on Class Actions
In both the Rockies and Kroenke cases, the courts denied the defendants’ motions respective motions to dismiss with respect to the consumers’ central individual claims—that the language on the backs of the tickets violated the CCPA. The courts refused to allow the cases to proceed as class actions, however, as the plaintiffs had alleged. The culprit: recently, some judges have seized upon a little-known 1999 Amendment to the CCPA that they interpret as having abolished class actions under the law. No federal or state appellate court has had the opportunity to weigh in on such decisions, which appear to overlook the long-standing principal that when the legislature seeks to do away with existing law, it does so clearly. Here, no mention was made by the legislature back in 1999 that it meant to do away with CCPA class actions. Indeed, the Colorado Supreme Court has on multiple occasions since the 1999 amendment reviewed and issued orders in class cases brought under the CCPA. That it would have done so without so much as a peep when the law didn’t actually allow for such relief in the first place is arguably untenable. In any case, it will be interesting to see the result of such an appeal, as the ability of consumers to vindicate important resale rights hangs in the balance.
If you have purchased event tickets in Colorado, save the stubs. Also call us and we’ll review the language free of charge. The law covers tickets to any stadium, arena, concert venue, racetrack, museum, or amusement park and operator violations shouldn’t be allowed to go unchecked.
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