Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett announced a settlement in a suit against the official website of teen pop star Miley Cyrus, ensuring that Pennsylvania members will have their subscriptions extended after they were unable to buy concert tickets as promised.
In September 2007, Corbett began receiving complaints from angry Cyrus fans, who paid nearly $30 for membership in the MileyWorld.com fan club, in part because of assurances that they could purchase concert tickets before they were made available to the public. The website failed to inform consumers, however, that the tickets were sold within the first 15 minutes of being offered to fan club members. More egregiously, the website allegedly continued offering "pre-sale" codes, which allowed access to the early ticket sales, after all the tickets were already sold out, rendering the codes useless.
Most of the complaining consumers were unable to get tickets to "Hannah Montana" concerts in late 2007 and early 2008. Hannah Montana is the star's alter ego and the character she plays on the Disney show of the same name.
The settlement, technically known as an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), was reached with Interactive Media Marketing of Nashville, the company that runs the site. Under the agreement, Interactive Media Marketing is required to extend club membership by four months for 996 Pennsylvania consumers. The company is also required to clearly disclose terms and conditions of future pre-sale ticket programs on its website, assuring that the problem doesn't repeat itself.
A recently settled Tennessee class action against MileyWorld.com provided an additional two months of benefits to all affected fan club members. As a result, eligible Pennsylvania consumers will have their benefits extended for a total of six months.
The Tennessee suit, filed in November 2007, alleged that the website "deceptively lured thousands of individuals into purchasing memberships, based on the understanding that by joining, they would be able to purchase tickets before they were offered for sale to the general public." The suit was filed on behalf of Kerry Inman of New Jersey by the firms Robert Peirce & Associates of Pittsburgh and Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt of Memphis.
The settlement is a step forward for online consumers. Internet-based fan clubs and other organizations are harder to regulate and hold accountable, given the transient nature of many online players.