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Baltimore settles suit alleging unlawful ticket fees at Royal Farms Arena for $420K

Baltimore's spending board is expected on Wednesday to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the city-owned Royal Farms Arena charged concertgoers unlawful ticket fees.

The proposed $420,000 cash settlement would end a two-year fight over the suit brought by John G. Bourgeois of Perry Hall. Bourgeois alleged that the city received illegal "user" or "convenience" fees from tickets sold through Ticketmaster and SMG for events at the arena between Aug. 1, 2011, and March 14, 2013.

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Under terms of the settlement, the city would award $3 vouchers to every member of the class for future ticket purchases at the arena. That amount would be deducted from the city's profits.

Bourgeois targeted the sale of 920,621 tickets. His lawyers argued that the user or convenience fees on those tickets could total $4.3 million.

The settlement, which the Board of Estimates is expected to approve on Wednesday, would be the latest in a series over the unpopular ticket fees.

Before March 12, 2013, the city had a long-standing anti-scalping law that prohibited vendors from selling tickets for more than the purchase price.

The City Council voted in 2013 to allow Ticketmaster, the city and others to charge unlimited fees.

Councilman Carl Stokes, who introduced the bill, said at the time he was concerned that ticket vendors would leave the city if they could not charge the fees.

"One big concern is Ticketmaster would say, 'We're not doing business in Baltimore anymore if we can't charge more than 50 cents,'" he said in February 2013. "Fifty cents is much too small an amount for their services."

Stokes did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Mary Pat Clarke was one of three City Council members who voted against allowing vendors to charge the fees.

"They're deceptive," she said Tuesday. "They're beyond the value of any service provided, and they hurt local residents who want to attend the events."

Marceline White, director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, opposed the fees, saying the council was supporting the interests of corporations over city residents.

After the proposed settlement Wednesday, she said, city leaders should revisit the issue.

"There was an opportunity a few years ago, when this came up, for the city to pass legislation getting rid of these hidden fees," she said. "Now that it's back … I hope it's something they take more seriously and give real thought to.

"If the ticket price is higher, people should know," White said.

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The council approved the bill months after Maryland's highest court struck down Ticketmaster's unpopular user fees in Baltimore.

Concertgoes have filed several class-action suits over the fees, including one against Ticketmaster and The Lyric Opera House and another against Rams Head. All but Bourgeois' suit have been settled, city officials said.

Andre Bourgeois sued Ticketmaster in 2011 after being charged $12 in user fees on a $52 ticket to see Jackson Browne at the Lyric. That same year, Ticketmaster owner Live Nation agreed to pay $22.3 million to customers to settle a class-action lawsuit in California over fees.

Benjamin Carney, of Gordon, Wolf & Carney in Towson, was listed in online court records as attorney for both John and Andre Bourgeois.

Neither Carney nor John Bourgeois responded to request for comment, and Andre Bourgeois could not be reached. It was not clear whether the men are related.

Vendors have defended their fees, saying it's more convenient for fans able to order the tickets, rather than, say, camp out overnight at a ticket window.

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