Canada’s Competition Bureau sues Cineplex for allegedly advertising misleading ticket prices

The Competition Bureau says it’s suing Cineplex for allegedly advertising misleading ticket prices, the agency said Thursday.

The bureau alleged in a Thursday media release that Cineplex is breaking the law by adding a fee that raises the price of its tickets purchased online.

It says an investigation found consumers can’t buy tickets online at advertised prices because there is an additional mandatory fee of $1.50 for booking online.

The bureau alleges that this is an example of misleading drip pricing, also known as a junk fee. It notes that recent amendments to the Competition Act explicitly recognize drip pricing as a harmful business practice.

It says any additional fixed charges or fees are false or misleading under the law unless they are imposed by the government, such as sales tax.

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Cineplex announced the online booking fee last June. It said Scene Plus rewards members would pay a reduced $1 per ticket purchased online, while members of CineClub, the company’s monthly subscription program, would not pay any fee.

The company said at the time it was looking to “further invest and evolve our digital infrastructure,” including website upgrades.

The Bureau alleged that Cineplex has generated significant revenues from the fee since its introduction. It said it has filed an application with the Competition Tribunal seeking for Cineplex to stop what it calls deceptive advertising, pay a penalty and “issue restitution” to affected customers.

“Consumers expect to pay the advertised price. We’re taking action against Cineplex because misleading tactics like drip pricing only serve to deceive and harm consumers,” Matthew Boswell, the commissioner of competition, said in the release.

rows of seats in a movie theatre
Cineplex first announced the online booking fee last June. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

“For years, we have urged businesses, including ticket vendors, to display the full price of their products upfront,” he said.

“I remind all businesses to review their pricing claims to make sure they do not mislead consumers.”

Cineplex did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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