Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99
News Opinion

Ticketmaster fees are a necessary evil

It's safe to say that Ticketmaster doesn't have many fans. The service, which handles ticket sales for venues large and small across the nation, charges fees on its transactions that seem to bear little relationship to either the cost of the tickets or the actual work the company does. We completely sympathize, then, with the Baltimore concert-goer who took the company to court and successfully argued that its fees violate a 1948 Baltimore law limiting extra charges to 50 cents per ticket.

However, we also agree with City Councilman Carl Stokes, who is shepherding through legislation that would sidestep the court verdict by temporarily exempting Ticketmaster from the law. A council committee approved the legislation Thursday, and it could be voted on by the whole body this month. A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she supports the measure. Ticketmaster's current fees may be too high, but 50 cents is too low, and it will take the council time to figure out a happy medium.

In the meantime, the stakes involved in letting this decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals stand are too high. Many of Baltimore's museums and concert venues rely on Ticketmaster to handle their sales, and if Ticketmaster refused to do business in Baltimore, the economic impact would be large. The Orioles season is about to start, and while they rely on a Ticketmaster competitor, they, too, could be left in the lurch if this decision stands.

Mr. Stokes' bill would sunset in November, and during that time the council and Mayor Rawlings-Blake's administration should research the laws governing Ticketmaster and its competitors in other cities and states and craft legislation that protects consumers without harming those who rely on the convenience these companies provide. The city would also be wise not to lock itself into a fixed rate for ticket service fees, lest it find itself in the same situation again a few decades hence.

Some critics of Mr. Stokes' bill have complained that it's unfair to exempt large corporations from the anti-scalping law but to leave it in place for individuals. They're right about that. What's good for one should be good for the other, and the legislation the city eventually adopts should reflect that. However, it makes sense in the meantime to maintain what had been the status quo before the court ruling. Even if there is no legal limit on the fees Ticketmaster can charge, the company is limited by its agreements with Baltimore entertainment venues. That is not true of individual ticket scalpers.

Baltimore should seek to protect consumers from exorbitant ticket fees, but a law designed to cut down on post-World War II scalping of Navy football tickets is not the right mechanism to do it. Ticketmaster and its competitors are 21st century businesses, and they need to be governed by 21st century laws.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    • Baltimore's crane drain
      Baltimore's crane drain

      Hats off to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other top city officials for not blowing their tops when word came down last week that language included in the Senate's version of the state budget package would give a $2 million tax break to Ports America Chesapeake — all of it coming...

    • The people's representatives should be elected
      The people's representatives should be elected

      Members of Congress don't always complete their terms due to factors like death, a new job and scandal. When a House seat becomes vacant, the Constitution requires an election to fill it, and every House member has been elected. The 17th amendment established direct election of Senators as...

    • The conservative case for same-sex marriage
      The conservative case for same-sex marriage

      Before the current Supreme Court session ends this summer, the justices will make a landmark decision on same-sex marriage. But conservatives shouldn't wait to lose in court. They should accept same-sex marriage now.

    • A future-oriented agenda for the GOP's presidential candidates
      A future-oriented agenda for the GOP's presidential candidates

      Here's some advice, not only for Mr. Cruz, but for the other would-be GOP candidates: Instead of nonstop attacks on President Obama, adopt a positive and future-oriented agenda.

    • More quality teachers, fewer administrators
      More quality teachers, fewer administrators

      Each year when it is time for executive central office school officials to present their proposed school budget to local government officials for approval, a funny thing happens. The needs of children anchor the plea for more funding. From a political perspective, this is a tough plea to...

    • No weather TLC without TWC
      No weather TLC without TWC

      People love to talk about the weather. And people listen to those who know what they're talking about — like meteorology guru Jim Cantore. But when Verizon FiOS unexpectedly dropped The Weather Channel (TWC) from its line-up on March 10, those voices went silent for the cable company's...