Baltimore Fears TM Backlash

Baltimore politicians are scrambling to insert an exception into a local scalping ordinance that bars ticketing companies from charging more than 50 cents in service fees.

The ordinance has been around since 1948, when it was passed to curb scalping at college football games, but it was only recently that the Maryland Court of Appeals decided that the service fees charged by Ticketmaster amounted to scalping.

In one of many class-action suits against Ticketmaster, Baltimore resident Andre Bourgeois sued the company in federal court in 2011 after paying $12 in fees for a $52 Jackson Browne ticket. The federal court asked the court of appeals to help decide whether the ordinance applied in the case, leading to the ruling.

Fearing that TM and other vendors may now refuse to do business in Baltimore, the city council is scheduled to vote on a measure that would allow ticketing companies to continue to charge service fees, the Baltimore Sun reported. Otherwise, those companies could face up to $1,000 in fines for each violation of the ordinance.

“One big concern is Ticketmaster would say, ‘We’re not doing business in Baltimore anymore if we can’t charge more than 50 cents,’” City Councilman Carl Stokes told the paper. “Fifty cents is much too small an amount for their services.”

The council’s bill would block enforcement of the ordinance until the federal court decides Bourgeois’ case and whether Ticketmaster should be ordered to stop charging fees and customers should get refunds, the Sun noted.

TM settled a California class-action suit over ticket fees in 2011, paying out more than $22 million to customers.