Peter Blake

Class action lawsuit against the Rockies? Yeah, that's the ticket!

If the Colorado Rockies’ regulations require you to use StubHub to resell your baseball tickets, they don’t seem to be doing a very good job of enforcing them.

A casual Web search for “Colorado Rockies tickets” turned up these other sites offering Rockies tickets: ticketmaster.com, vividseats.com, ticketsnow.com, ticketliquidator.com, seatgeek.com and cheaptickets.com, And that’s just the first page that Google coughed up.

Tickets can also be found on eBay (which owns StubHub) and Craigslist.

The Rockies, you may have read, are the targets of a class action suit filed in Denver’s federal court that alleges its rules requiring you to use only its authorized reseller — StubHub — are a violation of state law.

icon_op_edThat law, passed by the legislature in 2008, makes it illegal for a ticket seller to impose “a sanction on the purchaser if the sale of the ticket is not through a reseller approved by the operator.” It was aimed primarily at the Broncos. Sponsoring Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, recalled that the Broncos were trying to make money off season ticket holders who were selling off individual game tickets on the Internet.

According to the suit, whose figurehead plaintiff is one Marilyn Sweet, the terms printed on a Rockies ticket say it may not be resold via the Internet except through the team’s own site “or sites authorized by the Colorado Rockies.” Illegal resales “will invalidate the license granted by this ticket.”

StubHub is not specifically mentioned, and the implication is there is more than one site. But the suit says the Rockies have a section devoted to StubHub on their website and provide a hyperlink to StubHub’s site. StubHub is described as “The Official Fan to Fan Ticket Marketplace of the Colorado Rockies.”

And why do the Rockies want you to use StubHub? Because of a deal that Major League Baseball worked out with StubHub in 2007, claims the suit. It imposes a minimum price of $6 per ticket and the teams share half the profits on the sale.

“On information and belief,” says the complaint, the Rockies receive a minimum of $1.50 for each ticket sold via StubHub.

“The Rockies sell a ticket to you and if you want to resell it to someone else, they get to dip their hand in again,” said Steven Woodrow, the plaintiff’s attorney, in an interview. “They reserve to themselves rights they know they don’t have under state law.”

If you resell a car you bought from Ford, he noted, Ford doesn’t get a cut of the resale.

A few teams opted out of the MLB deal, says the suit, but the Rockies passed up opportunities to do so in 2007 and again in 2012.

So the Rockies allegedly gets two bites at the apple with StubHub. But how many people, if any, have been evicted from the ballpark? Why are so many Internet sites offering Rockies tickets if their customers could be penalized?

Woodrow admitted he had no knowledge of anyone being thrown out of Coors Field because of unauthorized resales. “But I do know of people who pay inflated fees because of the risk of not doing so,” he said.

There’s also this problem: It’s the seller who used the unauthorized reseller, and he’s not in the stadium — or at least not in the seat illegally resold. Would the ushers throw out a presumably innocent buyer sitting in the seat?

The suit isn’t against all big-league clubs because Colorado is one of only two states that have resale protection laws, according to Chris Grimm of Fan Freedom, a Washington-based group. It’s not a party to the suit but is encouraging it. Grimm said that legislation similar to Colorado’s has been introduced in a half dozen other states.

“You can have an authorized reseller, that’s fine,” Woodrow said. “But you can’t impose any sanctions.”

Repeated attempts to reach three different lawyers for the Rockies all failed prior to deadline.

The class covers all those who paid for a Rockies ticket since March 19, 2008 — the day the law went into effect — to the present. How much money is at stake cannot be known yet. If the plaintiffs win at trial — or the team chooses to settle out of court — the various plaintiffs would get minimal amounts while 25 percent of the money, more or less, would go to the lawyers. That’s standard in class action suits and what keeps them coming.

Scalping tickets outside the stadium is not addressed in the lawsuit. A Denver ordinance forbids reselling a ticket on the streets for more than face value. Scalping on the Internet, however, is what StubHub and its rivals do to make a living.

Woodrow is not a scalping defense lawyer, but he sounds as if he’d like to try a case. “State law says you are allowed to resell unrestricted,” he noted. “And state law is not limited to Internet sales, like a lot of people believe…. So I would argue the Denver ordinance conflicts with state law. I don’t think anyone should be arrested for scalping unless they change the state law.”

Scalping, he said, is a derogatory term given to free-market sales.

Longtime Rocky Mountain News political columnist Peter Blake now writes Thursdays  for CompleteColorado.com. Contact him at pblake0705@comcast.net. You may re-publish his work at no charge and without further permission; please give full credit to Peter Blake and www.CompleteColorado.com

Comments

comments

Comments are closed.