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US Federal Trade Commission to look into online ticketing

The FTC will explore "consumer protection and competition issues" in the online event ticket sales market in a workshop next March

By Jon Chapple on 04 Oct 2018

The FTC workshop will feature opening remarks from federal trade commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

The workshop will feature opening remarks from federal trade commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

image © Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking input from the US entertainment industry and the general public ahead of a newly announced inquiry into the online ticketing market.

The FTC workshop, set for 29 March 2019, will explore “consumer protection and competition issues” related to buying tickets online – an area which has been a “frequent topic of consumer and competitor complaints”, according to the US competition watchdog.

The commission will tackle issues in both the primary and secondary markets, including transparency, lack of ticket availability and ticket bots (including the recently introduced BOTS Act) and pricing clarity, fees, speculative tickets and consumer confusion over primary vs secondary sellers, respectively.

“The commission has a strong interest in protecting consumer confidence in the online marketplace,” reads an FTC statement. “Issues that frequently arise in connection with online event ticket sales include practices that prevent consumers from obtaining tickets, mislead consumers about price or availability or mislead consumers about the entity from which they are purchasing.

“The workshop will discuss the current state of the online event ticket marketplace, shed light on industry wide advertising and pricing issues and explore ways to address deception beyond traditional law enforcement.”

“The workshop will … explore ways to address deception beyond traditional law enforcement”

US and global market leader Ticketmaster – whose parent company, Live Nation, was earlier this year accused by the US Department of Justice of using its monopoly power to pressure venues to use Ticketmaster – says it “welcomes and looks forward to participating in the FTC workshop on online ticketing in March 2019”.

“We encourage other ticketing companies to take part in educating consumers and lawmakers on the opportunities and challenges in the ticketing industry,” the company says in a statement, “and to join us in further action to improve the consumer ticket buying experience, including aggressive enforcement of the BOTS Act, the elimination of speculative ticket sales and restrictions on deceptive marketing and misleading ticketing URLs.”

Comments are invited from interested parties until 5 December 2018 by using this link. The FTC has also set up a dedicated email inbox, [email protected], for suggestions regarding workshop participants.

The FTC’s counterpart in Britain, the CMA, has been running an inquiry into secondary ticketing since 2016, and recently announced legal action against Viagogo for alleged breaches of consumer law.


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