Swiss Watchdog Rebukes Hallenstadion and Ticketcorner Over Exclusive Ticketing Agreement

Hallenstadion Zurich
Patrick Seeger/picture alliance via Getty Images
– Hallenstadion Zurich
Picture taken prior to the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland, Feb. 26, 2016.

What is common practice in the U.S. – a venue dealing with one ticketing company exclusively – has constituted a breach of competition laws in Switzerland.

The country’s competition commission Weko adjudicated that Zürich’s main arena, the Hallenstadion, and CTS Eventim’s Ticketcorner breached the country’s competition law between 2009 and 2011.
As a detailed report by Neue Zürcher Zeitung lays out, Hallenstadion and Ticketcorner entered into an exclusive ticketing agreement, which saw Ticketcornner run the building’s box office and advertizing channels that were off limits to other ticketing operators.
Ticketcorner in turn bought shares in Hallenstadion and paid an annual fee.
Weko took issue with the fact that Hallenstadion forced concert promoters to sell at least half of their tickets through the building, which de facto meant through Ticketcorner.
CTS Eventim didn’t yet own any stakes in Ticketcorner back in 2009, and was Eventim Switzerland that notified Weko about Hallenstadion’s practice. Other ticketing operators including Starticket, Ticketing and Ticketportal joined in. 
Hallenstadion Zurich
Hallenstadion Zurich
– Hallenstadion Zurich
Outside view

When Eventim bought a 50% stake in Ticketcorner in 2010, it withdrew its complaint with Weko, according to the NZZ report, but things had already been set in motion.

Weko ceased its investigation into the matter in 2011, a decision that got quashed by Switzerland’s federal administrative in 2016, and was now confirmed by the highest instance, the Bundesgericht, the equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court decided that promoters didn’t have sufficient alternatives in the 7,300-capacity-plus range that are close-by. As NZZ points out, Hallenstadion held 75% of all pop and rock concerts between 2009 and 2011, which gave it a dominant market position.
A dominant position alone wouldn’t have caused any issues, it’s the fact that Hallenstadion abused this position that the court took issue with: promoters effectively weren’t able to freely choose their ticketing partner anymore.
NZZ reports that Hallenstadion could be fined as much as 10% of its revenues generated over the last three years, but first the duration and severity of the breach need to be determined by Weko.
Pollstar has reached out to both Hallenstadion and CTS Eventim/Ticketcorner, who declined additional comment. 
Both companies released a joint statement, which conveys that while Ticketcorner is happy about the fact it’s been let off the hook by the court, it still laments the decision overall, as does Hallenstadion.
Both companies also lament the length of the proceedings and will probe the verdict in the coming days to determine its impact on their current collaboration.