Baseball Fans Take a Swing at Colorado Rockies

     DENVER (CN) – The Colorado Rockies baseball team has an illegal deal that prevents Rockies ticketholders from reselling game tickets anywhere but on StubHub, disgruntled fans claim in a federal class action.
     Lead plaintiff Marilyn Sweet sued the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, alleging violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
     Only the Rockies – not Major League Baseball or StubHub – are named as defendants.
     Sweet claims the Rockies prohibits ticketholders from reselling tickets online anywhere other through the club’s official website, which actually serves as a portal for StubHub, a subsidiary of eBay.
     The Rockies get 50 percent of the service fees StubHub charges, and will kick fans out of the Coors Park on game day if they bought their tickets elsewhere, Sweet says in the lawsuit.
     “Defendant knowingly imposes restrictions on the resale of its tickets that are unlawful under Colorado law – which was specifically enacted to provide Colorado consumers with an unrestricted secondary market for the resale of tickets,” according to the complaint.
     “Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”) § 6-1-718(3)(a)(IV) declares that: ‘It is void as against public policy to apply a term or condition to the original sale to the purchaser to limit the terms or conditions of resale, including, but not limited to, 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.’
     “Instead, and in direct contravention of this law, defendant forces consumers seeking to participate in the secondary market (by either re-selling their tickets or purchasing resold tickets) to exclusively use www.StubHub.com (‘StubHub’) or face expulsion from the stadium. Moreover, consumers are forced to pay StubHub’s inflated fees in the process, of which on information and belief, defendant receives and retains a portion.
     “Put succinctly, the CCPA, § 6-1-718(3)(a)(IV) provides that imposing terms and conditions on ticket purchasers that restrict the purchasers’ rights to resell their ticket in the marketplace is against the law, but the Colorado Rockies do just that – threatening to invalidate the ticket license if the ticketholder does not comply with its unlawful terms.
     “By doing so, ticket purchasers, such as plaintiff Marilyn Sweet, are injured, because they are unable to purchase or resell their tickets in a manner that allows them to satisfy personal preference and maximize profitability without risking invalidation of the ticket license. Through her complaint, plaintiff seeks to require defendant to bring its conduct and tickets into compliance with the law and to recover all damages suffered as a result of its unlawful practices.” (Ellipsis and parentheses in complaint.)
     The “Terms and Conditions” of each game ticket state: “[T]his ticket may not be resold or offered for resale (i) via the Internet or any other interactive media, except, if applicable, through the official website of the Colorado Rockies (www.coloradorockies.com) or sites authorized by the Colorado Rockies or (ii) in a manner at a price or otherwise in violation of any Federal, State, or local laws/ordinances/regulations. Any such resale will invalidate the license granted by this ticket,” according to the complaint.
     This turns the tickets section of the Rockies’ website is little more than a shop window for StubHub, Sweet claims.
     “On its official website, the Colorado Rockies have an entire section dedicated to StubHub. When a consumer visits www.coloradorockies.com (the only website, secondary ticket marketplace or otherwise, listed in the Terms and Conditions printed on Colorado Rockies tickets) and clicks on the ‘Tickets’ tab, the consumer discovers that the Colorado Rockies have a whole page dedicated to providing information about buying and selling tickets via StubHub. The webpage even provides hyperlinks to StubHub’s website,” according to the complaint.
     The Rockies net about $1.50 per ticket sold on StubHub, Sweet claims, on top of the $50 million it brings in every year in initial ticket sales.
     “MLB franchises and StubHub share the profits gained from a service fee StubHub charges for each sale,” the complaint states. “On information and belief, which discovery will confirm, this profit sharing is roughly a 50-50 split.
     “The amount of the service charge under the 2012 agreement is $3.00 for tickets under $50.00 and is a percentage of the price above $50.00. Therefore, on information and belief, the Colorado Rockies receive a minimum of $1.50 for each ticket sold via StubHub.”
     Baseball franchises were given several chances to opt out of the partnership between MLB and StubHub, Sweet say in the lawsuit. The Rockies signed up in 2007, a year before the relevant section of the Consumer Protection Act became law, but the club spurned a chance to opt out in 2012 when the restrictions were clearly defined as illegal, the class claims.
     The class consists everyone in the United States who bought a ticket for a Colorado Rockies home game from March 19, 2008 until today.
     Sweet seeks an injunction, costs, and damages for violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, bad faith, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
     She is represented by Steven Woodrow with Edelson Law.

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