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Ticketmaster to refund for Springsteen fiasco

Live Nation Entertainment's Ticketmaster unit has agreed to refund money to some consumers who felt they were ripped off when they bought Bruce Springsteen concert tickets.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Live Nation Entertainment Inc.'s Ticketmaster unit has agreed to refund money to some fans who felt they were held up without a gun when they bought Bruce Springsteen concert tickets from brokers last year.

A person familiar with the matter said Wednesday that the ticket buyers will get the difference between the marked-up price and their ticket's face value, a sum that could reach several hundred thousand dollars.

The Federal Trade Commission is set to announce the settlement Thursday, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement was still pending.

Fans complained last February that tickets to two Springsteen concerts at the Izod Center in New Jersey appeared to sell out instantly and then they were directed to Ticketmaster's subsidiary to buy higher-priced tickets. The incident, which Ticketmaster blamed on a "glitch," sparked outrage from fans, lawmakers and the Boss himself.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., has proposed a law to correct some of the alleged abuses. Although he wasn't aware of the settlement, he said in a statement Wednesday he hoped it would refund consumers' money and "make sure this kind of debauchery never happens again."

The commission identified around 800 people who ended up paying premiums above face value for tickets. Those who step forward will be able to be paid back.

Other fans offered to buy high-priced tickets from brokers but didn't complete the transaction because brokers did not actually have them on hand.

The settlement will also require brokers using to disclose whether they actually possess tickets they are advertising to sell, the person said. As well, more disclosure will be required on links to the TicketsNow site from Ticketmaster. Those links had been taken down after the incident.

The FTC is planning to use the disclosure provision to bring about change in the ticket-resales industry, which sometimes relies on artists holding back tickets for friends and family only to release them on the resale market for profit.

Irving Azoff, now the executive chairman of Live Nation, has said he never would have bought resale site TicketsNow, the No. 2 online broker for paper tickets, if he had been in charge when Ticketmaster's $279 million deal for TicketsNow closed in February 2008.

The settlement was earlier reported in The Wall Street Journal.

Ticketmaster, the nation's largest ticket-seller and Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, merged last month after a year-long antitrust review by the Justice Department.

Regulators required Ticketmaster to license its ticketing software to a competitor and sell a subsidiary that handles tens of millions of tickets a year.

Both moves were meant to strengthen the companies that will compete with Live Nation, which is based in Los Angeles, for ticketing contracts and concert promotion work.

Regulators had feared that the combined company would control too much of the concert experience, from artist management and t-shirts to food and beverage sales and parking. The companies have argued just such an arrangement is more efficient and will enable them to lower ticket prices.