An American state Supreme Court has just struck the first blow against greedy ticket scalpers and vendors like Ticketmaster and Live Nation, in ruling that ticket merchants charging exorbitant fees over the face value of a concert ticket illegal… you read that right.

The Consumerist reports that the Arkansas Supreme Court confirmed that the ticket seller was bound by the same state laws that prevent scalpers from adding additional fees and over-charging on ticket prices.

The case was brought to the Supreme Court after an Arkansas resident, Corey McMillan, complained of being charged $49 in fees – on top of the $42.75 asking price – for four tickets he purchased to a concert for country music singer Jason Aldean.

McMillan sued Tickemaster, claiming they violated the provision of the Akransas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that “forbids the sale of tickets above their face value plus reasonable credit card or handling fees.”

Despite protests from lawyers for the ticketing corporate, the state’s highest court denied a rehearing on the matter.

Though the law against overpricing on tickets is currently upheld in just the one American state, it could set a precedent and eventually we may see similar legal action here in Australia.

It’s no secret that the likes of Ticketek and Ticketmaster add additional booking fees and handling charges to their concert tickets, but The Brisbane Times spotlighted a report by Choice, a consumer advocacy group, last year that found punters were being stung with hidden add-on fees that were calculated after the purchase of their tickets.

A similar news item from The Telegraph told how Ticketmaster were taking advantage of the highly-anticpated Eagles tour of 2010, by slugging customers who purchased online tickets to the event with a ‘handling fee’ of an extra $25.

Including a statement that justified the additional cost “at the request of the promoter… so that it includes Ticketmaster’s own handling fee as well as a fee that relates to costs and charges associated with the use of credit cards and other expenses involved in the sale of tickets.”

Unfortunately, Ticketek and Ticketmaster are able to continually charge booking fees of up to $10 per order, precisely because they have a monopoly on the market.

The Brisbane Times, reported in the same article, “found the two ticketing giants have exclusive rights with the nation’s major sport and entertainment venues – including the Melbourne Cricket Ground – which ultimately means consumers have no choice of their ticket seller when these rights are involved.”

Of course Ticketek and Ticketmaster aren’t the only plunderers of the market, scalpers too often stock up big on major concert events also.

Most recently, when Radiohead announced their first Australian tour in eight years. Opportunists ended up selling tickets online through eBay for upwards of $500, prompting Michael Chugg of Chugg Entertainment (the tour’s promoter) to call for governement intervention.

So without any Australian laws to stop scalpers or the fee-happy official ticket vendors, what hope is there? Perhaps the industry can look towards The String Cheese Incident for inspiration.

In a humorous bit of fat-cat subterfuge, The New York Times ran a story on the Colorado-based ‘progressive bluegrass act’ who essentially bought out all the tickets to their own show from Ticketmaster, then re-sold them to fans online without additional fees.

The bizarrely expensive plan to challenge the system saw fifty fans and friends of the band taking $20,000 advanced by the group to The Greek Theater in Los Angeles, where “each person had enough to buy eight tickets at $49.95 apiece for the group’s show in July. Once all tickets were in hand, almost 400 of them, they were carried back to String Cheese headquarters in Colorado and put on sale again through the group’s Web site — for $49.95.”

The band’s manager, Mike Luba explained the stunt as, “we’re scalping our own tickets at no service charge.”

A novel approach – if a pricey one.

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