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California judge sends Live Nation ticket antitrust case to arbitration

3 minute read

The logo for Live Nation Entertainment is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • Judge said terms of use on Live Nation and Ticketmaster sites compel arbitration
  • Quinn Emanuel team for plaintiffs said they did not assent to terms of use

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(Reuters) - A California federal judge on Thursday dismissed a putative national consumer class action alleging the merger of Live Nation Entertainment Inc and Ticketmaster LLC reduced market competition and inflated ticket prices sold on web platforms.

U.S. District Judge George Wu of Los Angeles federal court said the plaintiffs were bound by arbitration clauses that were contained in the terms of use of the websites of Ticketmaster and its parent Beverly Hills, California-based Live Nation. Wu granted the defendants' bid to compel arbitration.

Wu had said in a ruling on Sept. 20 that the plaintiffs failed "to provide any persuasive authority where a court has invalidated an arbitration agreement in similar circumstances." He added: "The court joins many others in again finding that the defendants' websites provided sufficient constructive notice as required for mutual assent."

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Frederick Lorig, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in Los Angeles who represented the plaintiffs, did not immediately return a message on Friday seeking comment.

Lawyers for Live Nation and Ticketmaster at Latham & Watkins, including Daniel Wall, former chair of the firm's antitrust practice, also did not return a message seeking comment.

The putative class sued Live Nation and Hollywood, California-based Ticketmaster in April 2020 alleging violations of federal antitrust law in two areas: the "primary" market for an initial distribution of tickets and a "secondary" market for the resale of previously purchased tickets.

The complaint alleged Live Nation and Ticketmaster "engaged in predatory and exclusionary conduct" including efforts to enter into long-term deals with venues in a bid to suppress competition for ticket sales.

The plaintiffs said among other things that they had not seen or read the relevant terms of use, and they did not agree to them, at the time of purchasing tickets online.

Wu said "a user manifests assent by completing the account creation process, signing in to an account, or completing a purchase."

The plaintiffs also said a "countdown timer" – in which a ticket purchase needed to be completed – added additional pressure that didn't let consumers read the terms of use.

Wu said the practice of a timer was not "oppressive."

"If desirable seats at popular shows sold out in minutes, as plaintiffs claim, the 'ticket hold' could actually increase the amount of time that a user has to complete their purchase before the desirable tickets are sold out," Wu wrote.

The case is Oberstein v. Live Nation Entertainment Inc, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 20-cv-03888.

For the plaintiff: Frederick Lorig, Kevin Teruya and Adam Wolfson of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

For Live Nation and Ticketmaster: Daniel Wall and Timothy O'Mara of Latham & Watkins

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