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Paperless ticketing bill in Massachusetts gains support

By Alfred Branch Jr.

Supporters of a proposal to regulate ticket resale in Massachusetts far outnumbered opponents of the bill during a public hearing this week, a show of strength that could help the legislation eventually become law.

No immediate decision was reached at the hearing before the state legislature's Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Tuesday, September 20, but almost all the testimony officials heard was from people and groups supporting the proposed legislation. The bill, H.1893, was sponsored by state Rep. Michael Moran, and it calls for an open ticket resale market and a ban on restrictive paperless tickets (electronic tickets that cannot be easily transferred or resold). Moran's bill is similar to legislation adopted in New York State earlier this year.

A second bill proposed in the state Senate, S.103, would cap ticket resale at 50 percent above face value, but its sponsor, Sen. Jack Hart, has said he would consider amending his proposal to cap resale at between 50 percent and 100 percent of face value. Hart's bill does not address the paperless ticketing issue and is currently taking a back seat to H.1893.

"If restrictive ticketing practices are adopted by venues, teams and ticket issuers like Ticketmaster, they will push all their re-sales onto an exchange they own or prefer and I will lose this convenience – so will many thousands of Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins fans," Dorchester resident and sports fan Frank Fernandez said in a statement to the committee.

Restrictive paperless tickets, which are utilized primarily by Ticketmaster, require the purchaser to swipe their credit card at the venue to gain entry, which essentially locks that person into using the ticket. Digital ticketing company Veritix, whose president Jeff Kline testified about the proposed legislation Tuesday, also sells paperless tickets, but the company makes transfer or resale easier by only requiring an email address for the tickets to be sent.

Those transactions, however, take place through Veritix's proprietary system, and cannot occur through StubHub or other ticket exchanges. But Kline, who supports easy transfer but not the bill, has said in the past that the company is open to discussions about making ticket transfers across various platforms.

"There's no counterfeit tickets, there's no fraudulent tickets, there's no lost tickets,'' Kline told New England Cable News (NECN) concerning Flash Seats, the company's proprietary paperless tickets. (See the video below)

Jon Potter, president of the consumer advocacy group the Fan Freedom Project, told NECN that at the end of the day, he and other fans believe they own the tickets that they purchase. And as such, there should be no restrictions on how or for how much a fan chooses to transfer that ticket, just like with other products.

"Consumers own the tickets that we buy, and if we own the tickets, then we actually have the right to give them away to share them with our friends to sell them, and to sell them on any marketplace we choose,'' Potter said.

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