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By Chris Cooke | Published on Friday 26 May 2023
US Congress members Bill Pascrell Jr and Frank Pallone Jr yesterday officially introduced proposals in the House Of Representatives that would put in place new laws to regulate the American ticketing business with the aim, they say, of addressing transparency and other issues in the “badly corrupted live events ticket marketplace”.
Proposing new ticketing regulations is in vogue in Congress at the moment, so it’s no surprise that Pascrell has some regulations to propose, as he has been seeking to better regulate the sale of tickets ever since 2009. Indeed, the proposals introduced yesterday are an update of what has been proposed before.
Back in 2009, issues with the ticketing business popped up on the political agenda after a mini controversy around ticket sales for Bruce Springsteen shows. That was caused by a glitch in the system that meant some fans found themselves being directed on Ticketmaster’s official resale platform to touts selling tickets on the ticketing giant’s own resale platform, even though tickets were still actually available on the main Ticketmaster site.
Ticketing has become political again recently due to issues that occurred around the sale last year of tickets to Taylor Swift’s current tour via Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system. The Swift ticketing debacle led to a Congressional hearing and two sets of legislative proposals being introduced in the US Senate. And it’s in reference to that more recent ticketing controversy that Pascrell’s proposals – originally known as the BOSS ACT – have been renamed The BOSS and SWIFT ACT.
An assortment of different issues have been raised about ticketing, some specifically relating to secondary ticketing and the touts, and some to how tickets are managed and sold by official primary sellers. And some of the issues relate specifically to Ticketmaster and its owner Live Nation. Some argue that – as the biggest promoter and biggest ticket seller in the US – the combined Live Nation/Ticketmaster is too powerful, and its market dominance is behind some of the problems.
Keen to steer the political debate away from that latter point, Live Nation has expressed support for some new rules for regulating the ticketing market. Most of those rules would apply to secondary ticketing. Although – unlike in Europe – Ticketmaster is still involved in resale in the US. Therefore, those new rules would apply to its own operations.
With the two sets of legislative proposals recently introduced in the Senate, one set – proposed by Senators Ted Cruz and Maria Cantwell – is very much focused on the regulatory reforms that Live Nation supports. However, the other set – proposed by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal – aims to provide “protection against the clear excesses and abuses of Ticketmaster”. So is clearly not supported by Live Nation.
The BOSS and SWIFT ACT is more wide-reaching than the proposals introduced in the Senate and does include some of the reforms that Live Nation is supporting. And, unlike the Klobuchar and Blumenthal proposals, there are no rules that overtly seek to deal with the anti-competitive business practices that Ticketmaster has been accused of.
However, it is likely that at least some of what Pascrell and Pallone are proposing won’t be enthusiastically welcomed at Live Nation HQ. And certainly Pascrell and Pallone themselves seem to reckon that their proposals address some of the grievances consumers have specifically regarding Ticketmaster.
Commenting on his latest ticketing proposals, Pascrell says: “For too long, millions of American fans have been unable to get a fair shake for their tickets and cry out for relief. The recent experience of Taylor Swift fans being locked out of her tour is not new and Swifties are just the latest victims of Ticketmaster’s policies and a broken market”.
“For decades, the ticket market has been the Wild West: mammoth, opaque, speculative and brutally unfair”, he goes on. “A fan shouldn’t have to sell a kidney or mortgage a house to see their favourite performer or team. At long last, it is time to create rules for fair ticketing in this country and my legislation will do exactly that for all the fans”.
Pallone adds: “Consumers deserve to enjoy their favourite artists and live entertainment without breaking the bank. It’s past time to update the ticket marketplace to ensure it’s fair, transparent and working for ticket buyers – not Ticketmaster or resellers”.
“That’s why I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep Pascrell’s BOSS and SWIFT Act”, he adds, “which will help protect consumers when they buy tickets from ticket sellers and resellers”.
The Pascrell proposals are also backed by a number of organisations, including the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation Of America, Sports Fans Coalition, FanFreedom Project and Protect Ticket Rights.
The key proposals in the the BOSS and SWIFT ACT are as follows…
1. Mandatory all-in pricing to ensure the true ticket price is clearly displayed and does not change during check out process.
2. Clear disclosures of refund policies and guarantees for consumers to have the choice of a full refund or a replacement ticket in a comparable or upgraded location if a ticket is not delivered.
3. Disclosing to buyers whether a ticket is being offered as a primary sale or secondary sale.
Primary ticketing platforms:
1. Transparency on the total number and cost of tickets that will be offered for sale to the general public.
2. Preserving ticketing transferability so consumers are not restricted from reselling their tickets or facing a price ceiling or floor on ticket resales.
Ensure fans cannot be sanctioned for reselling a ticket.
Secondary ticketing platforms:
1. Clamping down on unauthorised speculative ticket sales.
2. Protecting consumers who receive tickets that do not match the description of those purchased.
3. Disclosing to purchasers when the secondary seller is the primary ticket seller, venue, team, or artist associated with the event.
4. Prohibiting unauthorised insiders from selling tickets at marked up prices
5. Restricting resellers from selling the same seat to more than one person at the same time.
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