A JENKINTOWN-based law firm filed a consumer fraud class-action suit against Comcast Spectacor, parent company of the Flyers, on behalf of all 2011-12 full season ticketholders on Monday.
The complaint alleges that Comcast Spectacor and the Flyers misled season ticketholders by excluding the 2012 Winter Classic game tickets - a regular-season game held at the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park - after the contractual ticketholder agreement stated that fans prepaid for 44 home games, three preseason contests and all 41 regular-season home games.
"We have been made aware of this frivolous claim, and we are confident that we acted appropriately in all respects," Comcast Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman said in a statement. "Following the [NHL's] selection, all season ticket holders were given an appropriate refund and were given the additional opportunity to purchase a Winter Classic ticket package. It's a shame that a disgruntled few have seized upon the class-action lawsuit to attempt to profit from what was overwhelmingly considered by those who attended the Winter Classic, and the other games, to be an extraordinary experience.
"We will vigorously defend against this claim and will refrain from making any further comments."
Interestingly, Comcast Spectacor chose to not appeal a March 30 judgment in Montgomery County small-claims court, which awarded season ticketholder Richard Abt approximately $1,300 in a nearly identical suit. Abt was paid in full by Spectacor, including court costs.
"That suit was on a different matter which we chose not to appeal for strategic reasons," Richman said, when asked to comment on that suit.
This current class-action suit, in which all full-time season ticketholders would be eligible to participate, could be worth tens of millions of dollars, according to Evan Barenbaum, who is leading the case for the Stern and Eisenberg firm.
"If the case in Montgomery County was so frivolous, why didn't Comcast Spectacor choose to use the appeals process and fight it tooth and nail?" Barenbaum asked. "This is a team who tried to get as much money from consumers as they could. That's their right as a business. But they angered a large part of their fan base in the process. They gave customers no choice.
"This was a regular-season game, in Philadelphia, on regulation ice. It should have been a part of the 44-game package that fans paid for."
If full-time season ticketholders wanted to purchase tickets to the Jan. 2 Winter Classic, the NHL's premier regular-season outdoor spectacle, they were forced also to buy tickets to the Flyers-Rangers alumni game on Dec. 31 and a Phantoms AHL game on Jan. 6, plus pay $41 of processing fees per ticket, according to Barenbaum.
Phillies premium seat holders and Rangers season ticketholders were not forced to buy the three-game package.
"Comcast disingenuously offered Plaintiff and the members of the class an insufficient refund of only one fourty-fourth [1/44] of the price they paid for each full season ticket package," reads the suit, which was filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Mercer County.
The Flyers are thought to have more than 15,000 full-season ticketholders. More than 145,228 fans attended the combined weeklong activities: the main event, the alumni game, the AHL game, and college and high school games. Partial season ticketholders are not permitted to be a part of the suit, since they were never contractually promised all 44 games.
Now, at the very least, a large part of the sports business world will keep a close eye on this case. The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs are scheduled to play at the 108,000-seat Michigan Stadium next January, with similar events planned.
"If the Flyers wanted to take away a regular-season game from the package, why could fans decide they do not want preseason games to be a part of their deal?" Barenbaum asked. "They were contractually obligated to provide a regular-season game. They did not, asking fans to pay an arm and a leg for the big game. Fans have been furious, they have been wondering why it took so long to put this together."
The Flyers did not practice on Monday, but defenseman Andrej Meszaros skated separately with three or four other scratches in Voorhees. Meszaros, 26, has not played since March 1. He had surgery to remove a disk fragment in his lower back on March 21. It remains unclear as to whether Meszaros has been cleared to return, though he could for Game 5 . . . Using tweets from fans, the Flyers painted the Wells Fargo Center parking lot with "good luck" messages for Game 5 using a 2,200-pound robot with 48 spray guns attached to the back of an SUV on Monday.