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Live Nation sued over service fees on tickets in Baltimore

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and its local licensee alleging that the ticket agencies have been illegally charging customers high service fees despite not being licensed to sell tickets in Baltimore City.

“Among other things, Defendants used their dominating market position in the business of ticket sales to impose service charges on top of the face value of tickets in violation of Baltimore City law, and to represent that those ‘service charges’ were legitimate and collectible, to enrich themselves at the expense of the Plaintiff and other class members,” the complaint states.

City law requires ticketing agencies to hold a license and permits convenience charges of only up to 50 cents on top of the face value of tickets they sell, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday by plaintiff Andre Bourgeois of Baltimore.

Bourgeois alleges that because Live Nation and its Landover-based licensee, Monumental Ticketing Limited Partnership, are not licensed as ticket agencies by the Baltimore City Director of Finance, charging any service fees constitutes scalping and is prohibited under city law.

Live Nation took in an average revenue of $7.82 per ticket in 2009, primarily from service charges imposed on customers, according to the lawsuit. This added up to $1 billion in revenue on sales of tickets valued at $8 billion.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, seeks to recover damages for all those who have purchased a ticket for a Baltimore event through Live Nation in the past four years. The lawsuit includes 10 counts, six of which allege violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act. Other counts include negligent misrepresentation and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act.

Quinn, Gordon & Wolf, the Towson-based firm that is representing Bourgeois, has not asked for a specific amount of damages but says in the complaint that the aggregated claims of those within the class exceed $5 million.

Borgeois’ complaint was filed in response to service charges of more than $12 he incurred on a Jackson Browne concert ticket valued at $52 in 2009.

He purchased the ticket from Ticketmaster Entertainment, LLC. Ticketmaster became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Live Nation on Jan. 25, 2010, when the two companies merged.

Ticketmaster was faced with a similar lawsuit in 2003 in Los Angeles when it was accused of charging customers exorbitant delivery fees. That suit was settled in January when parent company Live Nation agreed to pay $22.3 million in legal fees and returns to customers.

Benjamin Carney, the lawyer who signed the complaint, declined to comment.

Representatives from Live Nation did not return calls for comment.