Ticketmaster, 49ers Collusion Allegations

A federal class action accuses the San Francisco 49ers and Ticketmaster of conspiring to drive up ticket resale prices by monopolizing the secondary market for 49ers tickets.

Photo: AP Photo / Eric Risberg
A groundskeeper does some last minute retouching to the field at Levi’s Stadium July 17, just prior to a June 17 ribbon-cutting. The new, $1.2 billion home of the San Francisco 49ers was built in just 27 months and will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016.

Lead plaintiff Amir Kazemzadeh sued the 49ers and Ticketmaster Aug. 5 claiming antitrust violations and trespass to chattels, according to Courthouse News. The lawsuit specifically seeks class certification, an injunction, disgorgement and distribution of money received and punitive damages.

The NFL isn’t named in the suit. Kazemzadeh claims that this year, for the first time, the 49ers blocked him and other season ticketholders from getting their tickets until 72 hours before game time. In previous seasons, Kazemzadeh claims he could print his tickets in advance and give them as gifts or post them for sale on websites such as StubHub. However, for the coming season, the only way season ticketholders can resell tickets before the three-day limit is allegedly through Ticketmaster’s NFL TicketExchange website, which charges high fees and conceals its floor price for resold tickets, the News said.

The suit cites a 2014 Forbes column in which Steve Pociask wrote that Ticketmaster “sets an arbitrary price floor on tickets, a floor that is undisclosed to the purchaser. It is the NFL’s attempt to take over the secondary market and keep ticket prices, which were already sold once, from being resold at low prices.” The lawsuit also brings up a 2010 FTC complaint against Ticketmaster for steering customers to a website where they unknowingly paid up to four times the face value of tickets for concerts and other events in 2008 and 2009. Kazemzadeh claims the conspiracy prevents competition in the secondary ticket market, reducing the number of 49ers tickets for sale on other websites while increasing the number on the NFL Ticket Exchange.

Ticketmaster’s NFL Ticket Exchange charges buyers 15 percent extra, with a 10 percent surcharge for season ticketholders and a 15 percent service fee, the complaint estimates.

Kazemzadeh says the 49ers and Ticketmaster blocked his access to his own tickets: property that he rightfully owns. Plaintiff lawyer Abbas Kazerounian alleges the size of Ticketmaster’s transaction fees suggests the 49ers are “getting a piece” of the action, and that this “double dipping” restricts consumer choice and competition, according to the News.