Cineplex Made Nearly $40 Million from Online Booking Fees

Cineplex has made nearly $40 million from online booking fees, now under scrutiny by the Competition Bureau for allegedly deceptive marketing practices.

Documents presented to the Competition Tribunal reveal that Cineplex collected over $11.6 million within six months after debuting the charge in June 2022, with an additional $27.3 million collected throughout 2023, according to the Canadian Press.

The $1.50 fee was added to each ticket purchased online, although discounts are available for Scene+ members, and CineClub members are exempt. The controversy centres on whether Cineplex’s presentation of these fees misleads consumers, constituting deceptive marketing and drip pricing—a tactic where initial displayed prices are later tacked on with extra fees.

Matthew Boswell, the Competition Commissioner, has criticized Cineplex for not presenting the full ticket price upfront on their website, noting that the fees are often disclosed in a manner that most consumers might overlook. He also highlighted the use of a countdown timer during the purchase process as a strategy that pressures consumers, potentially diverting their attention from the extra fees.

According to Boswell, such pricing strategies could mislead consumers into underestimating the total cost of their purchase, thereby artificially inflating demand for Cineplex’s tickets. The Commissioner has called for the tribunal to mandate Cineplex to halt its drip pricing strategy, remove the countdown timer, and impose a financial penalty equivalent to the gains from this alleged misleading conduct.

Cineplex has dismissed these allegations as baseless, arguing that consumers are made aware of potential fees at the outset of the ticket purchasing process.

A class action lawsuit has been launched against Cineplex for its booking fees and now the Competition Bureau is zeroing in on its case against the movie chain. Literally, grab your popcorn with fake butter because this is going to be one interesting fight to watch.

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