Washington state suing Super Bowl ticket seller

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By Donna Gordon Blankenship, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) -- Washington state filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a Super Bowl ticket seller for taking orders for more than $149,000 tickets and then telling customers at the last minute it could not fill them.

The state had received 24 complaints about New York-based SBTickets regarding 60 tickets sold to Washington state residents. The lawsuit contends the company violated Washington state's Consumer Protection Act.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the company was planning on buying tickets at the last minute, in hopes of last-minute bargains, but ticket prices continued to rise until game time.

Ferguson is asking King County Superior Court to force the company to reimburse its customers for travel and lodging costs as well as the ticket price and to pay penalties of up to $2,000 per incident.

Most of the ticket buyers told the attorney general's office they received reimbursement for their tickets weeks after the Super Bowl.

The state of Washington has received more than 100 complaints about deceptive Super Bowl ticket practices; SBTickets was just the worst offender, Ferguson said during the news conference.

Complaints have come in concerning 30 to 35 ticket sellers, with three or four brokers the target of 10 or more complaints. More lawsuits could be filed in the future, Ferguson said.

This year's Super Bowl game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots in Glendale, Arizona, set records for the high cost of Super Bowl tickets in the secondary market.

SBTickets sold Super Bowl tickets for between $1,875 and $3,500 per ticket, according to the complaint.

"While not disclosing it to Washington consumers, defendant SBTickets was a short seller of Super Bowl tickets," the state wrote in the lawsuit. A short-seller sells an item the seller does not own at the time of sale, but plans to buy in the future from a third party, the lawsuit explained.

A phone call and email to the company asking for comment was not immediately returned.

The attorney general's office encouraged other consumers who experienced similar situations with SBTickets or another broker to file a complaint.

"The complaints are very critical for us to do our job," Ferguson said. "If folks have not complained, they still should."

He called SBTickets a scammer and said consumers should be very careful before they put down a lot of money to buy tickets online. "It's a buyer-beware situation for consumers right now," Ferguson said.