Business

Price complaints force changes at Ticketmaster

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Ticketmaster agreed Monday to change its online sales process after it directed people seeking Bruce Springsteen tickets to a subsidiary that charged up to 50 times the face value.

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 nationwide, she said.

Ticketmaster said in a statement Monday that the problem involving May 21 and 23 concerts at East Rutherford's Izod Center was caused by a software glitch. The "voluntary agreement" with the attorney general just formalizes changes the company already had implemented, it said.

Ticketmaster did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

When the tickets went on sale Feb. 2, Springsteen ticket seekers were redirected from the main Ticketmaster site to TicketsNow, a subsidiary. Milgram said at the time that redirecting them might have violated the state's consumer fraud act.

Springsteen said on his Web site that he and the E Street Band were furious. A spokesperson for the musician did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Ticketmaster did not admit wrongdoing but agreed to pay the state $350,000, Milgram said. The company also will compensate ticket holders who complained and change how it handles secondary sales, she said.

Milgram says she plans to further investigate the resale market — largely dominated by ticket brokers who buy in bulk and resell at higher prices.

"What is critical is that consumers understand what is happening on any Internet site during a sale of tickets," Milgram said. "The (Ticketmaster) Web site suggested that consumers could continue their search on TicketsNow, making it seem there was no difference in the two markets when, in fact, of course there is."

Milgram said her office received about 2,200 complaints from people unable to buy Springsteen tickets for a face-value price of $65 or $95. They were 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 congressional hearings Tuesday in Washington.

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