Cineplex Says Online Booking Fees are ‘Completely Avoidable’

The Competition Tribunal is currently engaged in a critical review, entering its second day, over the legality of Cineplex’s practice of charging an extra $1.50 fee on customers for online ticket purchases.

This case emerges amid allegations by the competition commissioner’s legal team that the fee constitutes “drip pricing” or a “junk fee,” potentially harming consumers by offering no alternative but to pay the extra charge. The argument says that purchasing tickets directly at movie theatres does not serve as a viable option for many.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, the competition commissioner’s lawyers highlighted the issue, stating that the fee leaves customers with no choice but to pay the additional cost, thereby questioning the fairness of such a pricing strategy. The tribunal’s focus has been on the visibility of this fee on Cineplex’s website and whether it is reasonable to expect consumers to notice the total price before making a purchase.

In defense, Cineplex has submitted written arguments to the tribunal, asserting that the online booking fee is ‘completely avoidable’, with half of its customers opting to purchase tickets at the movie theatre. The company further argues that the total cost of the ticket, including the online booking fee, is clearly displayed next to the “proceed” button, ensuring customers are aware of the full price before finalizing their purchase, reports The Canadian Press.

This case has drawn significant attention, as it not only affects Cineplex’s revenue, as it has made nearly $40 million from these fees, but also sets a precedent for online pricing practices in the entertainment industry. Ticketmaster’s ticket buying process also comes to mind, for example.

Last year, the federal government’s budget specifically mentioned it would tackle internet overage and telecom roaming fees, but also a plan to reduce these “junk fees” that we’re seeing from airlines and event and concert fees.

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