By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has agreed to reword its signs and website to settle years-long litigation that claimed it deceived patrons into believing its recommended $25 admission fee was mandatory.
Under the settlement announced on Friday, the museum, the largest in the United States and considered one of the world's most prestigious art institutions, will now say the amount is "suggested" rather than "recommended."
The museum faced two lawsuits that claimed its signage was misleading, in part because the word "recommended" was not sufficiently highlighted, and that visitors were funneled directly to cashiers upon entering to pay the money.
Under museum policy, visitors can gain entrance by paying as much or as little as they wish. The Met, as it is generally known, has charged recommended admission fees since 1971.
The lawsuits said mandatory fees would have been a violation of the museum's lease with the city and a 19th-century statute.
In 2013, a New York state judge threw out the lawsuits' claims that the museum had breached its lease and violated the law but allowed the claims centered on whether the museum had engaged in misrepresentation to proceed.
Weeks before the 2013 ruling, the city and the Met had amended their lease to explicitly permit the museum to charge a recommended fee while still allowing visitors to choose how much to pay.
The museum said in a statement the changes would go into effect next month to coincide with its opening of The Met Breuer, a new location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
"As a non-profit, the support the Met receives through admissions contributes to our ongoing operations and programming; it is critical to our success and greatly appreciated," Thomas Campbell, the museum's director and chief executive, said in the statement.
The settlement ends one of the two lawsuits, according to the statement. It was not clear if the other lawsuit would continue. Museum representatives and lawyers for the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)