LiveNation Parking Fee Fight Runs Out of Gas

     CHICAGO (CN) – Live Nation should not face a class action over the parking charges it automatically adds to tickets prices, a federal judge ruled.
     The dispute stems from a ticket James Batson bought 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 valid for parking at the downtown Soldier Field North Garage.
     In a federal class action, Batson called the $9 fee a “forced parking charge,” 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.
     U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman dismissed Batson’s amended complaint with prejudice Wednesday.
     The ruling notes that 7th Circuit precedent requires plaintiffs to prove “oppressive conduct” by showing that they have no access to alternate products and services.
     Here, however, “as the amended complaint twice alleges, Batson and other consumers could have avoided the $9 parking fee simply by choosing not to purchase a ticket to the O.A.R. concert,” Feinerman wrote. “It is indisputable that there were plenty of other avenues for musical and other entertainment in Chicago the evening of July 10, 2010.”
     Feinerman also rejected claims that Live Nation’s policy violates public policy.
     “Batson argues that Defendants’ practice ‘violates public policies in favor of walking, biking, and public transportation’ and against ‘drunk driving,'” the judge wrote. “Batson’s premise seems to be that a concert-goer who buys a ticket with an embedded $9 parking fee would drive and park rather than walk and take public transportation – just for the sake of using the space that he paid for – and then, to boot, would drink too much at the concert and drive home. That certainly is not what Batson did; he walked to the concert, bought his ticket, and then did not go back home, pick up his car, and claim his rightful parking space.”
     In refusing to let Batson further amend his claims, the judge said “any attempt to plead an ICFA[Illinois Consumer Fraud Act] unfairness claim would be futile.”
     Before it merged with Ticketmaster in 2010 to become the world’s largest ticket producer, Live Nation controlled 46 percent of all U.S. ticket sales. Today it owns the only amphitheaters in 18 of 25 regions in the country.
     Pollster reportedly found that Live Nation accounted for 70 percent of tickets for major artists in 1996.

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