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US reps hold ticketing hearing

‘In the Dark: Lack of Transparency in the Live Event Ticketing Industry’ included testimony from companies including Ticketmaster, AXS and StubHub

By IQ on 27 Feb 2020

Members of the House of Representatives yesterday (26 February) held a hearing into the US ticketing sector, with representatives questioning companies including Ticketmaster and StubHub on fees, ticket availability, transparency and more.

The hearing, dubbed ‘In the Dark: Lack of Transparency in the Live Event Ticketing Industry’, was announced by the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee last November. Invited speakers included Ticketmaster president/COO Amy Howe, AXS CEO Bryan Perez, StubHub’s vice-president and general counsel, Stephanie Burns, and Vivid Seats VP, legal affairs, Ryan Fitts.

Committee members sought answers on how those companies, as well as TicketNetwork and Tickets.com, make decisions on setting prices and making tickets available for sale online, reports Washington-watching paper the Hill.

Committee chairwoman Diana DeGette – who claimed the growth of online ticket sales had led to “anti-consumer practices across the industry” – identified five key areas where the business could do better: on hidden fees, restrictions on transferring tickets, the lack of transparency on how many tickets are available, fraudulent white-label websites and speculative ticket sales.

In her testimony, Howe said the biggest challenge faced by ticket sellers is “simple supply and demand”. She added: “We invest millions of dollars annually toward protecting our platforms so that fans, clients and brokers can avoid issues created by bad actors.”

“The greatest challenge is simply supply and demand”

Burns, however, made clear that secondary ticket sellers oppose such ‘protections’, where “ticket issuers, sports teams, artists, theatres and venues are using terms and conditions and technology to place downstream restrictions on the tickets that fans have rightfully purchased.”

She criticised Ticketmaster’s SafeTix technology – which gives event organisers and rights owners greater control over their tickets post-sale – from a ‘fans’ rights’ perspective, arguing that SafeTix “enables Ticketmaster to control if, and how, ticket purchasers may transfer or resell their tickets. Through this technology, Ticketmaster can disable ticket transferability completely or it can limit transferability solely to its own proprietary platforms.”

In his testimony, Perez claimed that great ticket ‘transparency’ would give an advantage to commercial resellers over “true” fans. “[D]isclosure of ticket availability would help brokers by giving them useful information about how many tickets they should purchase and what prices they should set in the secondary market to make the highest profit off of true fans,” he said. “For example, when ticket availability is low, brokers know that they can increase the markup on tickets in the resale market.”

Elsewhere, Representative Bill Pascrell – a long-time advocate of industry reform and the man behind the enduring Boss Act (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing) bill – welcomed the opportunity for lawmakers to grill ticketing companies, saying “Congress is moving to finally clean up live events ticketing”.

 


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