Dear Consumer Ed: 

I just spoke with a comedy club and was informed that an $8.99 handling fee is charged on "all" tickets purchased, even on-site at ticket booth/box office.  I thought if a ticket was purchased on-site or at a box office, a handling fee could not be charged. 

Consumer Ed says: 

For tickets purchased on-site or at the box office, Georgia law allows the owner, operator or sponsor of the event to add a service charge in addition to the face value of the ticket.  You can ask the comedy club what the handling charge is for.  If they say that it is for dinner, gratuity, parking or surcharges, which must be paid by the customer in order to see the show, these things fall under the definition of “face value”, and therefore should be included as part of the original ticket price.  Note that additional federal, state, or local tax charges are not included as part of the “face value.”

However, the law does place some limits on ticket brokers (outside agents who resell tickets to events) who charge a premium in excess of the face price of the ticket.  These brokers must be licensed, pay additional taxes, clearly list the face value of the ticket plus the additional fees, and give refunds if warranted.  These limitations do not apply to an owner or operator where the event is held, or the authorized ticket agent of such persons (e.g., Ticketmaster).  Further, regardless of who’s selling the tickets, there are no legal limits on service charge amounts, even for ticket brokers.

Still, if the comedy club fails to disclose the cost of the handling fees, or advertises ticket prices but charges additional fees for items that should have been included in that face price, the club’s advertising could be found to be unfair or deceptive.  If this is the case, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or to the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection at www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123.

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