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Scalping suit hits 16 ticket resellers

Court action involves law largely ignored by Bay State officials

At least 16 companies are gouging Massachusetts consumers by reselling tickets to concerts and sporting events in violation of the state's antiscalping law, according to a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

The suit alleges that licensed ticket agents routinely violate the state law, which bars the resale of tickets for more than $2 above face value plus any legitimate service charges.

David Kurzman of Sharon, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, said he purchased two Red Sox tickets to this Saturday's game against the New York Yankees for $375 apiece from Ace Ticket Worldwide, a $335 markup over the face value of $40.

David G. Thomas, Kurzman's attorney, said Ace clearly violated the anti-scalping law. He noted Ace, which has offices in Boston and Brookline, charged Kurzman a separate $37.50 handling fee and a $17.50 shipping fee for the two tickets.

According to the lawsuit, Ace also included a note with the tickets telling Kurzman to lie about where he obtained the tickets if someone asks.

''Your tickets are part of a season ticket holder's package," the note said. ''If you are asked where the tickets came from, please say they were a gift or that someone gave them to you."

The legal action is seeking to recoup alleged improper mark-ups for tickets as well as attorneys' fees.

The Red Sox have threatened to revoke the season tickets of customers caught reselling their tickets. The New England Patriots have a similar policy.

Officials at Ace Ticket declined to comment yesterday.

Kurzman also declined to comment. A consultant to the lawsuit said Kurzman is planning to use the tickets to go to the game Saturday.

The lawsuit is basically a private sector attempt to enforce a law that has been ignored by state officials. The Massachusetts Public Safety Office, which licenses ticket resellers in Massachusetts, said it has never disciplined a company for overcharging for its tickets.

Katy Ford, a spokeswoman for the office, previously described the antiscalping law as a ''mess" and added that ''no one is complying with the letter of the law."

Ford said yesterday that Commissioner Thomas G. Gatzunis plans next month to gather all parties with an interest in the law to discuss whether it needs to be redrafted or even discarded.

Ace and many other ticket resellers say on their websites that their prices are high because they pay a lot to buy tickets from season ticket holders. But the suit points to a 1988 court decision that bars ticket resellers from including the cost of buying a ticket in their cost of doing business.

''If the licensee's service charge could include the gouging by his vendor, the public would be no more protected than if the licensee himself had inflated the price," said the appeals court decision.

The Globe reported in July that Colman Herman, a Dorchester resident who previously initiated a number of lawsuits to enforce the state's item pricing law, was exploring a suit against Admit One Ticket Agency in Weymouth for violations of the antiscalping law.

Herman said he is now working as a paid consultant to Thomas's law firm, Gilman and Pastor, on the ticket case.

Most of the named defendants in the ticket lawsuit are based in Massachusetts, including Admit One; McTicket Agency of Westwood; Out of Town Ticket Agency in Cambridge; Tickets One in Norwood; Lytle Ticket in Chelmsford; Pat's Ticket Center in Waltham; Quincy Ticket Center in Quincy; South Shore Ticket Agency in Marshfield; and SoxTix.com in Abington. In Boston, the named defendants include Ace, Best for Less Ticket Agency, Best Tickets, North End Ticket Agency, and Ringside Ticket Agency.

Two out-of-state resellers were included: StubHub.com of San Francisco, which has a ticket fulfillment center near Fenway Park, and Seacoast Ticket Agency in Portsmouth, N.H.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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