It’s the kind of bold action that rocks the status quo and grabs headlines. But Eric Church’s war on scalpers could have serious legal consequences, including from fans themselves.
Eric Church is declaring war on scalpers. And this was his offensive. Just yesterday, the singer took an extreme step by invalidating 25,000 tickets purchased by scalpers. Or, more likely, purchased by auto-buying ‘bots’ controlled by scalpers.
Church has long complained that scalpers use bots to remove tickets from the market, usually seconds after they go on sale. That auto-buying frenzy forces tickets into the ‘secondary market,’ which includes places like StubHub. There, scalpers can negotiate with buyers directly, and drive prices sky-high.
“It drives me fucking crazy,” Eric Church told Rolling Stone back in 2014. “The problem I have is that scalpers have a bazillion people working for them. And they have those bots that scan. So it’s not fair.”
Not fair. But, is it illegal to forcibly invalidate a purchase, just because it doesn’t seem ‘fair’?
And, how can Church be sure that all of those 25,000 tickets were purchased by price-gouging scalpers?
Those questions could be critical in the coming weeks. Church’s management says that a proprietary program was used to identify which tickets were scalped. But here’s one major problem with that: some of those tickets may have already been re-sold, leaving Church fans with voided tickets.
Even worse, some of those fans may end up going to the venue, only to realize the tickets are duds. Even worse, Eric Church forcibly refunded the scalpers, but not the secondary buyers.
All of which means buyers on Stubhub have (a) a cancelled ticket and (b) no way to get their money back.
“Ticket scalpers got their money back, and we would expect that scalpers would in turn refund their customers,” Eric Church told CMT. “But with ticket scalpers, you never know! Fans would have a strong case for contesting charges with their credit card company if they paid for something that the scalper didn’t deliver.”
And if scalpers don’t offer refunds?
That could lead to multiple lawsuits, or class action litigation, according to some executives watching this unfold. “It could get tested if enough [fans] are affected,” one lawyer explained. “It’s perfect class-action litigation.”
But scalpers themselves could sue, depending on how local laws treat secondary markets.
For now, it’s unclear what the fallout will be. It’s been estimated that 2,000 of the 25,000 tickets are for a pair of upcoming Nashville dates in May. Before that, Church will be playing dozens of dates across the US and Canada, starting Thursday (February 23rd) in Indianapolis.