US Congress investigates ticketing industry
The United States House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday (21 November) opened an investigation into what it deems the “potentially unfair and deceptive practices” of the primary and secondary ticketing market.
Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Live Nation/Ticketmaster, AEG, StubHub, Vivid Seats, TicketNetwork and Tickets.com, requesting information pertaining to the companies’ ticketing policies.
“The Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over consumer protection issues, is concerned about potentially unfair and deceptive practices occurring in the primary and secondary ticket marketplace, many of which have been documented in consumer complaints, press stories, and government reports,” write committee leaders.
In particular, representatives express concern over “high, hidden fees”; a “lack of transparency” surrounding ticket availability; the presence of speculative tickets – or those not yet in the possession of the seller – on secondary sites; the use of “deceptive” practices by white-label websites; and “limiting” restrictions on the transferability of tickets.
“This information will help demonstrate why we must pass my Boss Act to finally put into law hard regulation of the marketplace”
The Energy and Commerce Committee has previously taken action “to protect consumers”, such as banning tickets bots, or the use of software to bulk-buy tickets. In June, the Congress reintroduced the pro-transparency Boss Act (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing), following a workshop by the Federal Trade Commission into online ticket sales.
The act’s provisions include forcing primary sellers to disclose how many tickets will be offered for sale and make clear any fees up front, as well as prohibiting promoters and ticketing companies from restricting where buyers can resell their tickets.
Congressman Bill Pascrell, the principle sponsor of the act, comments that there is currently a “glaring lack of regulation” in the US ticketing marketplace.
“That one of Congress’s most powerful committees is investigating the worst anticompetitive and anti-consumer behaviour in the marketplace is a watershed moment,” continues Pascrell. “This information will help demonstrate why we must pass my Boss Act to finally put into law hard regulation of the marketplace.”
The ticketing companies have until Thursday 12 December to respond to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s request for information.
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US reps reintroduce pro-transparency Boss Act
On the back of Tuesday’s Federal Trade Commission workshop, three US politicians have reintroduced the dormant Boss Act bill in an attempt to provide “transparency and regulation to the badly corrupted primary and second live events ticket marketplace”.
The Boss Act (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing) – a sister bill to the ultimately successful Better Online Ticket Sales (Bots) Act, which proscribes the use of ticket bots across the US – was first introduced in 2009 amid controversy over holdbacks for Bruce ‘the Boss’ Springsteen’s Working on a Dream tour. It was reintroduced in 2016 but failed find to the support to become law.
Its provisions include forcing primary sellers to disclose how many tickets will be offered for sale and make clear any fees up front – while also prohibiting promoters and ticketing companies from restricting where buyers can resell their tickets.
The US representative for the ninth district of New Jersey, Bill Pascrell Jnr – who yesterday introduced the Boss Act 2019 alonsgide fellow representatives Frank Pallone Jnr and Richard Blumenthal – comments: “Even though it’s 2019, the $9 billion live events ticket market resembles the Wild West: bereft of regulation and order, with bad actors around too many corners making a living by ripping people off. The Boss Act would finally impose hard regulation and transparency to the ticket market so that fans can find affordable tickets and enjoy some live entertainment in these uneasy times without fear of being taken to the cleaners.
“Americans have been gouged and gouged and then gouged some more”
“Americans have been gouged and gouged and then gouged some more. Ticket buyers don’t know how many tickets are going on sale or how many are being held back, can’t see what fees will be tacked on, and sometimes don’t even know if the tickets they are purchasing exist yet. For too long on these issues, our government has failed to hear the ghost of Tom Joad [a Springsteen song], the common man and woman. It’s high time government stands up for him and for them.”
Supporting Pascrell (pictured) and co’s efforts is the National Consumers League (NCL), whose executive director, Sally Greenberg, adds: “Anyone who has tried to buy a ticket recently knows that the ticketing marketplace is rigged against us. Fans are forced to navigate a maze of hidden fees, rampant ticket holdbacks that create artificial ‘sell-outs’ and illegal ticket-buying bots that cut in line to hoard the best seats before fans even have a chance to buy them.
“Congressman Pascrell’s Boss Act is the fix the broken ticket market needs. The bill will bring much-needed transparency to an opaque ticket-buying process and put consumers in control of their tickets. NCL applauds Congressman Pascrell’s leadership on this issue and looks forward to seeing this critical consumer protection measure signed into law.”
The text of the updated Boss Act 2019 can be read in full here.