Concertgoers who paid extra fees at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., will get up to $38 million in free and reduced admission under a settlement given preliminary approval Monday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Arpert in Trenton certified the class in Katz v. Live Nation Inc. and set a Feb. 7 fairness hearing on the settlement.
The plaintiffs claim that Live Nation, the amphitheater’s operator, added arbitrary and unreasonable charges labeled as “parking fee,” “ticket fee” and “charity fee” to the ticket cost.
The $6 parking fee was charged regardless of whether the patron arrived alone in a car, came in a carpool or took public transportation.
The ticket fee of $6 to $12 allegedly was never explained, and no services or consideration were provided for it.
The charity fee ranged from 25 cents to $1.25, but Live Nation refused to name an organization that received it, the plaintiffs claim.
The suit called the ticket and charity fees “a contrivance for defendants to arbitrarily inflate ticket prices.”
In addition, Live Nation offered a “No Service Fee Wednesdays” promotion for online tickets but continued to charge a parking fee and increased the base admission price on those tickets, hiding rather than eliminating the fees, the suit claimed.
Under the settlement, Live Nation would pay at least $105 to 362,928 class members eligible for relief for online purchases through livenation.com or ticketmaster.com from June 23, 2003, to June 15, 2011.
Each class member would get three, free, lawn tickets to select events at the PNC Bank Arts Center or the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden.
Each ticket would have an average face value of $33.25, plus a $5 discount code for online purchase of a ticket to a Live Nation concert in any venue.
Lead plaintiff Michael Katz of Freehold bought nine tickets to a Blink 182 concert on June 6, 2009, for a base admission price of $7.75 per ticket. He also was charged $6 for parking and a $6.25 ticket fee, which also encompassed the charity fee, for a total of $20 per ticket.
On June 10, 2009, he bought seven more tickets to the same concert, in the same section, on No Service Fee Wednesday. That day, the base admission was $29 per ticket, with no ticket fee but a $6 parking fee, which added up to $35 per ticket.
The plaintiffs claim the fees violate the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act.
They sought an injunction against the parking, ticket and charity fees and against misleading no-service-fee promotions.
The suit also sought statutory and treble damages and attorney fees.
No injunction was included in the settlement, reached after more than three years of mediation with Stephen Orlofsky, a former federal judge now with Blank Rome in Princeton.
The class was represented by Andrew Wolf and Henry Wolfe of the Wolf Law Firm in North Brunswick and Olimpio Lee Squitieri of Squitieri & Fearon in New York.
Wolf says the settlement did not provide injunctive relief because that was “not something [Live Nation] would agree to.”
He said of the case, “It was a hard settlement. And we believe in the end we got a fair and reasonable settlement for the class.”
Live Nation’s lawyer, Philip Sellinger of Greenberg Traurig in Florham Park, declines to comment, saying only “We look forward to the final resolution of this matter.” ■