U.S. Congress To Investigate Concert Ticket Companies Accused Of 'Unfair Practices'

Photo: Paul Sakuma / AP

A group of bipartisan lawmakers has launched a formal investigation into a half dozen ticket sales companies citing what they are concerns about “potentially unfair and deceptive practices” stemming from consumer complaints and other sources.

Letters to the companies—Ticketmaster owner Live Nation, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), StubHub, Vivid Seats, TicketNetwork, and Tickets.com—were sent out on Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee listing “troubling practices and trends in the ticketing industry.”

“Specifically,” the letter states, “these practices and trends include: 1) high, hidden fees; 2) a lack of transparency related to limited ticket availability; 3) speculative tickets that harm unknowing consumers; 4) ‘white-label’ ticket websites that employ practices designed to deceive consumers; and 5) tickets that cannot be transferred or resold, limiting consumer options.”

The letter follows a series of congressional actions taken in 2016 designed to ensure “fairness and transparency” in the ticketing marketplace, including passage of the “Better On-line Ticket Sales Act,” and the launching of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into the industry, which wrapped up in April 2018.

The GAO report outlined a number of consumer protection issues affecting the industry, including professional resellers, or brokers, who have a “competitive advantage” over consumers when it comes to buying tickets the moment they go on sale. Many, the report states, use automated “bots” to rapidly purchase tickets before reselling them at a “substantial markup.”

The report also found that many ticket sites failed to clearly communicate fees to consumers or else “disclosed them only after users entered payment information.”

GAO also reviewed a number of suggested remedies, such as the introduction of price caps, nontransferable tickets, and adding disclosure requirements around ticket fees.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was also asked by lawmakers to look into consumer protection issues surrounding the marketplace in July 2018.

Despite ongoing bipartisan efforts and federal agency action, the letters to the ticket companies says, consumers still face a host of troubling practices, many related to “a lack of transparency and fairness, which places purchasers at an unfair advantage when attempting to buy tickets in the current marketplace.”

The letters are signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. and Republican leader Greg Walden; Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette and Republican leader Brett Guthrie; and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky and Republican leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Live Nation, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), StubHub, Vivid Seats, and Tickets.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TicketNetwork sent Gizmodo the following statement:

TicketNetwork thanks the Committee for its commitment to a fair and impartial look into the live event ticketing industry. For too long, anti-competitive and opaque practices by some businesses have bred consumer confusion and angst, which harms the entire live event ecosystem. We look forward to joining the other invited businesses providing insight to the Committee. We are confident that this process can help illuminate a path to a more equitable, transparent, and robust live event ticketing marketplace for consumers and businesses alike.

We will update with additional statements from the companies as we receive them.

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