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The highly publicized Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster court case resulted in a nearly $400 million class action settlement. Are you one of the lucky Ticketmaster customers entitled to free tickets as your award? Well, before you get too giddy, read on – the settlement is anything but straightforward, and those free tickets may not be particularly desirable to you, assuming there are any still available for the event of your choice.

The case, in a nutshell

In a class action lawsuit filed in 2003, five Ticketmaster customers claimed that the order processing fees and UPS expedited delivery prices of tickets are excessive and deceptive. The courts agreed and ordered Ticketmaster to right their wrong to the tune of $386 million.

An estimated 50 million customers who purchased tickets from Ticketmaster.com between October 21, 1999 and February 27, 2013 may be entitled to benefits from the settlement. Specifically, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You paid Ticketmaster an order processing fee that was not fully refunded
  • You were a resident of the United States at the time of your purchase
  • You did not previously opt out of the class action suit

Ticketmaster.com customers who paid for expedited UPS delivery in connection with their purchase comprise a subclass in the lawsuit. Not included in the settlement are customers who purchased tickets outside the above dates.

Ticketmaster denies any fault or liability but has agreed to change the language on its site to make it clear that order processing and delivery charges may contribute to a profit for the company.

The settlement

Under the settlement, class members will receive their award in the form of discount codes. These codes, which are good for four years, enable recipients to receive discounts for future ticket purchases and/or receive additional discounts on future UPS ticket deliveries.

Each class member will receive one discount voucher for each Ticketmaster.com purchase made between October 21, 1999 and February 27, 2013. The maximum number of vouchers any one member can get is 17. Class members who used UPS delivery for tickets during the class period also receive one UPS voucher for each UPS delivery they paid for, again up to 17.

If class members do not use at least $42 million worth of the discount codes, the settlement stipulates that Ticketmaster will make tickets for certain events available to the class members on a first-come, first-served basis. But class members won’t have to wait four years to learn if any free tickets are issued: if less than $10.5 million worth of discount codes are redeemed in a given year, Ticketmaster will make free tickets available. It will do so beginning one year after the initial settlement discount codes were issued.

All members need do is log in to their Ticketmaster account to find out what portion of the settlement belongs to them.

Got all that? Find the whole thing rather muddled and needlessly complex? You’re not alone.

The confusion

Despite social media rumblings to the contrary, the codes/vouchers are not free tickets to a concert of the recipient’s choice. In fact, determining what exactly class members are entitled to has proven confusing.

The discount codes are good for online purchases of tickets for any Ticketmaster event in the United States. Billboard.com explains it like this:

  • Ticketmaster discount codes are good for a $2.25 credit on a future online ticket purchase
  • UPS discount codes will take $5.00 off a future UPS charge for ticket purchases
  • Two discount codes can be combined on a single purchase
  • Each code can be used only once

Then there are the vouchers that can potentially (no guarantees!) be redeemed for free concert tickets, but remember, this only comes into play if $10.5 million of the discount codes are not redeemed annually. Each of these vouchers is supposed to be good for two tickets.

And here’s the kicker: unlike the discount codes, the ticket vouchers are only for general admission at certain venues and only for specific events. In terms of cashing in on any free ticket vouchers, the challenge for many class members is location. Ticketmaster will provide free tickets to at least 60 percent of the events that are held at venues owned and operated by Live Nation (the company that was formed by the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster), but these venues are at the discretion of the company.

Class members are encouraged to check in for “active vouchers” as new events are added, but some members will simply find that their vouchers are unusable in their immediate area or on their personal choice of concerts. To make matters worse, many customers are encountering technical difficulties redeeming their codes online (the codes aren’t being accepted at checkout).

Bottom line: Ticketmaster is adhering to the terms of the class action settlement and has created a website to keep class members informed. The site features a current list of events for which ticket vouchers “potentially may be used.” Unfortunately, nobody says these events will appeal to class members.

So if you feel you’ve been wronged by Ticketmaster and their seemingly exorbitant extra fees over the last couple decades, rejoice in this bit of revenge. Just don’t expect to enjoy much in the way of free ticket spoils.