The Justice Department declined Wednesday to bring an antitrust case against Ticketmaster, the nation’s largest distributor of tickets for live sports events and concerts.
A target of widely publicized protests by the Seattle-based rock band Pearl Jam and by consumer groups, the Los Angeles-based company had been under investigation by the department’s antitrust division for alleged anticompetitive and monopoly practices.
The company sold 55 million tickets last year for an estimated $1.6 billion. Pearl Jam claimed the company priced tickets too high for the band’s teenage fans.
In a two-sentence statement, the Justice Department said it had informed the parent company, Ticketmaster Holdings Group Inc., that “it is closing its antitrust investigation into that firm’s contracting practices.”
No lawsuit was filed so the case is over. But the antitrust division warned industry participants that the government “will continue to monitor competitive developments in the ticketing industry.” That kind of statement means the government would have to see actions or evidence it currently cannot find before taking any action.
Department spokesman James Sweeney declined to elaborate on the reasons for the decision.
Company spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
Ticketmaster earned an estimated $240 million last year from its service fees on tickets sold for 3,000 locations around the nation.
Two-thirds of the nation’s 10 million concert arena seats are governed by exclusivity contracts between Ticketmaster and arena managers, according to the industry newsletter Pollstar.
Pearl Jam fought with Ticketmaster last year over the service charge it tacks on the price of tickets. The band decided to tour without Ticketmaster, but canceled the plans after learning it wouldn’t be easy. Two of its members testified against the agency last year at a congressional hearing.
Pearl Jam is itching to perform, said Kelly Curtis, the Seattle-based band’s manager. The band recognizes that will mean no concerts in arenas controlled by Ticketmaster contracts, he said.
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