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Concertgoers lose round against Ticketmaster

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WASHINGTON (AP) --Pop concertgoers who accuse Ticketmaster of using its dominance in the ticket-sales business to boost service charges lost a Supreme Court appeal Tuesday.

The court, without comment, refused to revive ticket buyers' effort to force Ticketmaster to pay triple damages for alleged overcharges.The lawsuit accused Ticketmaster of monopolizing the ticket-sales business for large popular music concerts and of using its advantage to charge sales and handling fees as high as $20 per ticket.

Ticketmaster has exclusive contracts with almost every major concert promoter and with concert venues representing 63 percent of the nation's concert hall seats, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit accused Ticketmaster of engaging in price-fixing with those promoters and concert venues, and of boycotting the rock band Pearl Jam, which had a running feud with Ticketmaster over the size of its service charges.

The lawsuit sought triple damages and a court order requiring Ticketmaster to stop such practices.

A federal judge in St. Louis dismissed the claim for damages, saying the ticket buyers lacked legal standing to sue. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, although it said the ticket buyers still could seek a court order to bar any future violations of law.

Under Supreme Court precedent, damages for price-fixing can be sought only by someone who directly bought something from a seller. Indirect purchasers do not have standing to sue.

The appeals court said concert venues are the direct purchasers of Ticketmaster's services. Ticket buyers are indirect purchasers and therefore they cannot sue, the appeals court concluded.

In the appeal acted on Tuesday, the ticket buyers' lawyers said the 8th Circuit court ruling effectively makes Ticketmaster immune from such lawsuits. The concert venues have no incentive to sue because they reap a share of the ticket fees, the appeal said.

Justice Department lawyers agreed with Ticketmaster's attorneys that the buyers cannot seek damages from the company.

The case is Campos vs. Ticketmaster, 98-127.