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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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