A class-action lawsuit filed Thursday in Hennepin County alleges the Timberwolves’ Flash Seats paperless ticket system, instituted for the 2015-16 season, “fundamentally, and unlawfully, alters the way Timberwolves ticket holders may use and transfer tickets” and was implemented with the goal of benefiting the organization while hurting ticket buyers.
The plaintiffs in the case are GLS Companies, a corporation located in Brooklyn Park, and James Mattson, an individual ticket buyer from Minnesota. Both are 2015-16 season-ticket holders.
“This is something a lot of ticket holders, including very loyal fans, did not bargain for,” said Brian Gundmundson, attorney for the Minneapolis firm Zimmerman Reed, which filed the suit. “This was not something they were told about. It was implemented, and this didn’t sit well with them. People have their limits. They’re upset. These are not cheap products.”
The Timberwolves are owned by Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune. The organization released a statement Thursday afternoon from President Chris Wright that reads, in part:
“We are aware that a lawsuit was filed this morning in Hennepin County District Court and it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation. What we can tell you is that the Timberwolves and Lynx organizations are confident that Flash Seats supplies the best possible experience for our fans. Flash Seats give our ticket holders the maximum possible convenience and complete control over their Timberwolves and Lynx tickets.”
With Flash Seats, ticket purchasers use an app on a mobile device or scan a credit card or ID to claim their seats upon entry to Target Center. A handful of other NBA teams use Flash Seats, though the Wolves and Lynx were early adopters in requiring its use for all tickets.
The suit alleges that the organization implemented the Flash Seats system after season-ticket holders had already purchased their 2015-16 tickets and that had the plaintiffs — both of whom spent more than $20,000 this season on Timberwolves season tickets — known about the change it would have influenced their decisions.
The required use of paperless tickets through Flash Seats, the suit alleges, allows the Timberwolves to “control the use, resale, and transfer of tickets by season-ticket holders — and to employ minimum resale prices, added fees, and other draconian restrictions on subsequent transfers of the tickets.”
Tickets can only be resold through Flash Seats, the suit says, which limits the free market and profits the Timberwolves. It is “impossible for ticket holders to list the tickets on a secondary marketplace or platform such as StubHub or Ticketmaster, or even to physically sell or transfer them in a hand-to-hand transaction.”
In regards to a minimum resale price, the suit cites a specific example involving Mattson, who attempted to sell his $240 face value tickets to the Wolves vs. Celtics game Feb. 22 for $100 apiece but could only set his price at $180 or higher — 75 percent of face value — via Flash Seats. He couldn’t sell them at that price and was unable to recoup any of his money.