By Mark P Holmes
Numerous US websites reported that the fan club of the American teen pop sensation Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus and star of the successful ‘Hannah Montana’ TV show, was being sued by a disgruntled fan after thousands of fan club members failed to secure tickets to see the singer on her latest tour. After certain fans were left empty handed New Jersey resident Kerry Inman filed the suit “on behalf of all members” citing an ‘implied promise’ that membership implied assured access to the tickets. Fans, she says, were “deceptively lured…into purchasing memberships” worth $30 on the basis that members would be granted “priority access” to purchase tickets for Miss Cirus’s tour when they went on sale.
The two issues on which the case should turn appear at least on the face of it, pretty straightforward: firstly does ‘priority access’ mean ‘guaranteed access’ to a ticket. The answer is surely that in the context of being given the opportunity to purchase something, it simply suggests a ‘better chance’ than a non-member of purchasing a ticket. Any argument that this somehow constitutes a promise, and that therefore by extension the terms are interchangeable should not stand up.
Secondly, the claim that the defendants should never have advertised benefits of membership that they knew they could not fulfil, should a certain number of people join the club also seems flawed. The potential access to the tickets was, presumably, one of a range of benefits of fan club membership, and the average consumer should be aware that an offer such as this, especially one relating to an event that has a limited capacity would (or indeed could) not be open to all who apply. Whilst this is often made clear through the standard ‘while stocks last’ warning, it is nevertheless up to the consumer to weigh up whether he or she wishes to take the chance, and it is a basic tenet of modern contract law that it is not the courts’ role to interfere in such bargains. Either way, it is unclear exactly how a judge could enforce a ‘promise’ of tickets to concerts that are already sold out, and on the basis that an argument that fan club membership was not just intended to offer exclusive access to tickets could be made out, it seems unclear as to where exactly any damage would lie to be compensated.