Court case closes after Cineplex makes nearly C$40m from online ticket fees

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A court case has closed without delivering a ruling against Cineplex, which has made almost C$40m (£23.3m/$29.4m/€27.2m) from online booking fees.

Canada’s largest cinema owner Cineplex was taken to a competition tribunal after it made more than C$11.6m in the six months after the fees were implemented in June 2022, before making another C$27.3m in 2023.

Cineplex charges an additional C$1.50 on every ticket purchased online, although Scene+ members get a discount and the fee is waived for CineClub members.

It is the first time the tribunal is hearing a case involving “drip pricing” since the Competition Act explicitly recognised it as a harmful business practice in June 2022.

Competition commissioner Matthew Boswell argues that the online fees are deceptive because customers are not presented with the full price of the ticket on the first page they encounter.

However, Cineplex said in written statements that people can completely avoid the online booking fee if they want by purchasing in-person, and that half of all customers choose to buy their tickets at the venue.

The company also stated that the full price of the ticket, including the online booking fee, is displayed “prominently” and immediately left of the “proceed” button.

“There’s no misrepresentation. There’s no omission,” said Cineplex lawyer Robert Russell, as reported by Global News.

“The scrolling issue, the so-called shrouding issues, it’s all about when you see it.”

Cineplex argues that Boswell’s claims are without merit and should be thrown out, with costs awarded to the company.

The case is expected to continue although a date has yet to be decided for its resumption.

A similar case was brought against American ticketing company SeatGeek, which has had a lawsuit filed against it for “improperly charging consumers”.

Plaintiffs accused the company of not disclosing the full price of the ticket as customers are “initially quoted one price, only to later be shown the true total ticket, which includes an additional fees”.

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