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Live Nation’s ‘Forced Parking’ Fee Upheld

CHICAGO (CN) - Live Nation concertgoers who walk or take public transit must still pay the parking fee embedded in the price of their tickets, the 7th Circuit ruled.

"There are times when consumers are required to accept a package deal in order to get the part of the package they want," the 13-page opinion states. "An airline passenger with no luggage may prefer the cost of baggage to be decoupled from the cost of a seat, and a law student may prefer to pay lower tuition and avoid 'free' pizza days. But while some people may find these bundles annoying, or even unfair, the tie is not illegal unless the standards set forth in the governing antitrust cases have been met."

James Batson had brought the challenge at hand after buying a ticket from Live Nation Entertainment in July 2010 to attend an O.A.R. concert at the Charter One Pavilion in Chicago.

Although Batson walked to the concert, his ticket stated "$9 PRK PAID," and he was never informed that he could get a certificate that would let him park at the downtown Soldier Field North Garage.

Batson called the $9 fee a "forced parking charge" in a federal class action and claimed that he "was forced to either purchase parking or decline to attend the concert altogether - the tickets could not be purchased apart from the parking."

He also said the forced charge violated antitrust laws against "tying" two separate products, and violated public policies in favor of environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

A federal judge dismissed the complaint, however, and the 7th Circuit affirmed Tuesday.

"Antitrust law has backed away from flat condemnation of tying arrangements because they are not always abusive, and when they are not, they are a legitimate method of competition. Nothing in the Consumer Fraud Act is designed to prohibit hard, but fair, competition," Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for a three-judge panel.

In this case, Batson cannot show that Live Nation has so much power over live music concerts to permit it to force people to spend money for useless parking rights, the court found.

"Is it possible to regard O.A.R. concerts or the Charter One Pavilion as a meaningful product market?" Wood asked. "In a related context, we have held that a single popular venue is not a stand-alone relevant market. We are dubious here as well that the Charter One Pavilion in Chicago has that much clout. Even if it does, however, Batson has failed to allege anything that would plausibly show that Live Nation's parking tie-in has affected a substantial volume of commerce in parking."

The trial court also correctly found that concertgoers have plenty of alternatives to Live Nation for music in Chicago, according to the ruling.

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