Music Industry

The Competition Bureau sues Ticketmaster over unadvertised fees [UPDATE]

We’ve all experienced the cash desk sticker shock when we realized how much an item costs once you figure in the sales tax. Free airfare in exchange for points? Maybe the airfare is free, but the remaining taxes and fees can still add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Registering a website domain? Sure, it might cost $2.99 to start–but that’s before you start clicking all the boxes for additional (and often essential) services.

And then there’s the anger that comes when you buy a concert ticket. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

First, there’s the face value of the ticket itself. Then Ticketmaster’s service charge. Then a venue fee. Plus sales tax. You might even encounter something euphemistically called a “convenience fee.” And all these extra charges come later in the purchasing experience. Drip-drip-drip.

By the time your credit card is dinged and depending on the artist and jurisdiction, you may end up paying anywhere from 20% to 100% more for a single ticket. What gives?

This is what the Competition Bureau wants to ask Ticketmaster.

The Bureau first raised a flag in July 2017 when it asked ticketing companies (read: Ticketmaster) to review all their marketing and check-out practices. “Ensuring truth in advertising in Canada’s digital economy is a priority for the Bureau and targeting hidden fees is a key part of its efforts,” it said. Reminds me of when airlines started having to advertise all-in pricing when it came to the true cost of airfare.

Today the Bureau is not happy and continues to pursue action against Ticketmaster in hopes to end this drip-drip-drip pricing. Oh, and they want a fine assessed, too.

The Financial Post has this quote from Ticketmaster:

Ticketmaster and Live Nation did not immediately respond to a request from the Canadian Press for comment, but have staunchly fought the claims, saying the commissioner is either misunderstanding or misconstruing the ticket process and stressing that its practices are “standard in the ticketing industry,” “transparent, pro-consumer and proper.”

“Ticketmaster never suggests or implies that there are no fees associated with a consumer’s purchase. The opposite is true,” it said in a response to the application it filed with the tribunal.

“Consumers who purchase tickets online are aware that they will pay fees above the unit price of a ticket.”

Read more at the Financial Post and Global News. The text of the government’s complaint can be found here.

[This is an update of a post originally published on January 26, 2018]


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “The Competition Bureau sues Ticketmaster over unadvertised fees [UPDATE]

  • I’m not sure how there is any competition here at all, as they have a monopoly. Because they are a monopoly, they should be regulated by the province as a utility, not a competitive business. Ban the ability of Ticketmaster to resell their own tickets, limit their markup from the artists set price and limit total service fees per ticket to a maximum of $10/ticket, including ‘convenience fees’. They would still have a viable business and the public would be well served, unlike now.


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