Lawsuit alleges Ticketera is violating anti-monopoly laws
By The Star Staff
Ticket vending companies Ticket Center, Ticket Plus, Fastender, Buy a Tix, and several local entertainment producers have sued Ticketera in island court for violating anti-monopoly laws that have resulted in high consumer prices for shows and concerts.
The lawsuit filed Monday -- whose plaintiffs include producers Rafael Muñiz García de la Noceda, Josantonio Mellado Romero, Josantonio Mellado González, Antonio (Tony) Mojena Zapico, Félix Antonio Muñiz García de la Noceda, ORO Entertainment Corp., Edwin Vázquez Ortega, César Sainz Rodríguez, Acisum Group, Inc., Nelson Castro Morales, Rolando Santa Báez and Peter Cruz Pizarro -- contends that Ticketera has 90% of the ticket sales market.
Besides Ticketera, the suit included AEG Management PR LLC, ASM Global Inc., Jorge L. Pérez, TiX.BY LLC h/n/c Ticketera and Manny Morales Lema as defendants.
The lawsuit seeks to obtain compensation for damages and repeal alleged exclusive contracts that Ticketera has with essential concert venues in Puerto Rico.
“Ticketera’s practices have raised concerns about fair competition, repression of the producer class, and limited consumer choice,” explained Roberto Sueiro, legal representative of the group of plaintiffs. “This lawsuit describes the monopoly power and anti-competitive conduct of Ticketera and its impact on the ticket sales market of the entertainment industry.”
Ticketera currently has a market share of more than 90% of ticket sales services for the three main concert halls in Puerto Rico, according to the company’s own admissions in the media, and thanks to exclusive agreements with the co-defendant companies. AEG Management PR LLC (AEG) and ASM Global Inc. (ASM).
The three main halls are the Puerto Rico Convention Center, the Coca-Cola Music Hall, and the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum, all owned by the government and managed by the Convention Center District Authority (ADCC by its Spanish initials). The ADCC, a public corporation, granted an exclusive five-year contract to AEG and/or ASM with an automatic renewal of five more years (10 years in total). AEG/ASM, in turn, granted an exclusive contract to Ticketera for the sale of tickets in all the facilities managed by AEG/ASM.
Although Puerto Rico is a small island compared to other regions of the United States, the monopolistic pairing of Ticketera and AEG/ASM occupies 13th place in sales for a main concert hall in the U.S. As a result of the agreement, Ticketera undoubtedly holds a monopoly in the primary ticket sales market for live events in the geographic area of Puerto Rico, the suit says.
“This exclusive agreement for the sale of tickets restricts trade in the market for primary ticket sales services,” the lawsuit reads. “Ticketera’s monopoly power allows it to impose charges for super-competitive services arbitrarily, indiscriminately, and without restriction. These trade entry barriers, coupled with anti-competitive acts, have ensured that Ticketera’s monopoly power is unassailable.”
“Service charges have been strategically and painfully implemented,” Sueiro added. “Ticketera divides its fees into two types of service charges to hide its excessive costs. One cost is for purchasing tickets over the internet and another for the ticket sales service. These charges fluctuate between 20% and 30% of the total cost of the purchase. For example, in the concert of the singer Ricardo Arjona to be held at the Choliseo [José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum], an entrance ticket costs $55.00. Ticketera’s service charges for the sale of the ticket is $11.75, or 21.4% of the total cost of the ticket.”
“There is no real justification for the distinction of these classifications, only doubling the charges,” he said. “The variance in the title of the charge is a smokescreen to tease the consumer.”
The consumer pays the price for the monopoly because the average fan is willing to waive excessive and junk charges to see their favorite artist, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said. Despite the growing complaints from the consuming public over the exorbitant fees that Ticketera imposes on tickets, such fees are inevitable because in the monopoly, there is no other real alternative when it comes to buying a ticket to attend the activity or concert of the artist or event of your choice, which contrasts with markets open to several vending machines where there is competition resulting in lower ticket prices, he said.
“In unrestricted markets, tickets have fewer junk charges,” Sueiro said.
In Puerto Rico, according to the Law of Monopolies and Restriction of Commerce of Puerto Rico, consumers have the right to enjoy the benefits of free and open competition that guarantees the availability of better goods and services at lower prices. The competitive process works when competitors honestly and independently set prices. Price fixing, market allocation, boycotts, and auction rigging, among other forms of collusion, are illegal and subject to criminal and civil prosecution by the Puerto Rico Department of Justice’s Office of Monopolistic Affairs.