U.S. Court of Appeals Finds that Tying Arrangement Did Not Violate Federal Antitrust Law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago has agreed that a concert ticket tying parking to the music concert was not a violation of the federal antitrust laws. 

James Batson brought a ticket from O.A.R. Concert at Live Nation’s box office at the 3 on July 10, 2010.  After buying the ticket, Batson noticed on the face of the ticket that a $9 parking fee was included in the price. Every ticket sold included the fee regardless of whether the buyer needed to park a car.

Batson filed suit alleging violations of federal antitrust law as well as California’s unfair competition law.  Live Nation moved to dismiss.

Batson amended his complaint, changing the jurisdiction to that supplied by the Class Action Fairness Act. He alleged that his claims should be allowed under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFA). 

Live Nation again moved to dismiss, and the district court in Chicago granted the motion.  Batson took this appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The appellate panel cited Siegel v. Shell Oil Co., wherein it was decided that a plaintiff suing under the ICFA is entitled to proceed under either unfairness or a deceptiveness analysis.  A trade practice does not have to be deceptive to be prohibited.  The panel then stated that the unfairness analysis primarily relied on six factors laid out in another case, Federal Trade Commission v. Sperry & Hutchinson. 

Batson alleged that Live Nation’s practice violated a general public policy against tying one fee into another fee.  He also argued that public policy in favor of musical diversity and one in favor of the use of alternatives to cars as methods of transportation was illegal. 

The appellate court rejected these arguments.  The court found that there was no undifferentiated policy against tying recognized in federal law as indicated by the fact that tying arrangements are not considered per se illegal.

Accordingly, the panel concluded that a tying arrangement would have to be illegal under antitrust law to qualify as violating public policy for the purposes of the ICFA.

The court also found that the link between the $9 parking fee and any public policy in favor of walking was too tenuous to support a claim. 

There was nothing in the ticket price paid by Batson that made the purchase of the full ticket so oppressive on its face.  The panel also determined that the district court was correct in concluding that the fee did not substantially injure Batson.  Finally, the appeals court stated that while consumers may prefer to avoid bundling of services in many instances, the tie is not illegal or unfair in all cases.  As a result, the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the case.

James Batson v. Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., et al., No. 13-1560 (7th Cir., March 25, 2014). 

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling contract disputes, commercial litigation and business formation for individuals and businesses for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Bedford Park, Alsip, Barrington Hills, Glenwood, Hanover Park, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Hillside, Hoffman Estates, River Grove, Richton Park, Summit, Tinley Park, Maywood, Willow Springs and Worth, Ill.

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