Ripoffs from a company brokering tickets it did not have for Seahawks fans attending Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, AZ., have the attention of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. On behalf of at least 24 state residents who complained, Ferguson said Wednesday he has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the company that emailed its customers “sorry” on the morning of the Feb. 1 game.
The suit alleged SBTickets.com LLC of engaging in unfair and deceptive practices, Ferguson said in a release as part of a media conference in downtown Seattle office.
Customers received an email announcing the New York City company would not fulfill all its ticket orders. The company did not have the tickets it promised when it made sales to many consumers, a practice called short selling.
“For many people, a trip to the Super Bowl is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Ferguson, a former King County Council member. “Because of SBTickets’ deception about its ‘guaranteed’ tickets, people spent their savings on a trip only to wind up watching the game at restaurants and hotels nearby.
“I’m committed to protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices, and when companies like SBTickets mislead Washington residents, I will hold them accountable.”
The AG office has received 24 complaints about SBTickets, regarding 60 tickets. Prices ranged from $1,875 to $3,500 per ticket. Washington consumers paid SBTickets at least $149,000 for tickets promised to be “100% guaranteed, no tricks or gimmicks,” according to their website and email communications.
SBTickets wasn’t the only alleged culprit, Ferguson said, but his office received the most complaints about that reseller. The office has received more than 100 complaints total.
The company hoped to fulfill its orders by buying tickets at a later date for a lower price. But the market, instead of dropping closer to the game, went higher, to more than $10,000, far and away a Super Bowl record and more than SBTickets collected from its customers.
Rather than honoring its contracts and suffering a loss, SBTickets notified numerous Washington consumers they would not be receiving a ticket. In distributing the few tickets it did obtain, SBTickets prioritized customers who had paid the highest price.
For those who did not get their tickets, SBTickets promised refunds by Feb. 2. That also did not happen. Most consumers eventually received refunds about two weeks after the Super Bowl.
For many, the ticket price represented only a portion of the cost of their trip. Consumers spent thousands more on travel and lodging because of SBTickets’ deceptive sales.
The state is asking the court to order SBTickets to reimburse their customers, including travel and lodging costs, penalties of up to $2,000 per violation and an injunction preventing the company from engaging in deceptive practices in the future.
If other Washington consumers experienced the same situation with SBTickets or another broker, they are encouraged to file a complaint with the AG office. The office will review all complaints to determine whether individual brokers’ actions violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act.