This story was updated at 9:18 a.m. EST on Friday, February 25, 2011, to clarify that a similar but different bill was defeated in committee in 2010.
A year after a similar bill was defeated in committee, Connecticut legislators took up discussion of a proposed ticket resale law that would give consumers the option of buying paperless or traditional paper tickets, and would require that no more than 5 percent of tickets be withheld from public sale by a promoter or venue.
Last year, the proposed bill, which did not include language about paperless tickets, died in the General Assembly’s General Law Committee following a furious round of lobbying by opponents who argued that major acts would bypass Connecticut if promoters and venues were forced to disclose how many tickets they withheld, a practice that traditionally has been one of the live entertainment industry’s most closely guarded secrets.
That same argument was among those made by opponents this year to the new bill, H.B. 6298. Opponents and supporters spoke before the same committee during a public hearing earlier today, February 24, at the Capitol in Hartford, and among those in opposition to the proposed bill are the state’s XL Center and The Bushnell, which railed against the secondary ticket market.
“Constituents from municipalities across Connecticut are routinely victimized by secondary ticket scalpers and resellers, unknowingly paying outrageous prices for purportedly hard to find tickets, while tickets of face value are readily available through an official ticketing source with lower visibility on Internet search engines,” said The Bushnell’s David Fay.
Don Vaccaro, founder and CEO of secondary ticket company TicketNetwork, told the committee that if passed the bill would help to protect consumers, particularly from restrictive paperless tickets that make transferability nearly impossible. Last year, New York became the first state to require that fans have the option to buy paperless or traditional paper tickets for live entertainment events, and this week a consumer advocacy group called the Fan Freedom Project launched to educate consumers about the potential pitfalls of restrictive paperless tickets.
In the proposed bill, paperless tickets are permitted, “provided the purchaser of such tickets is offered the option, at the time of initial sale, to purchase the same tickets in another form that is transferrable, independent of such a ticketing sales system, including, but not limited to, paper tickets or e-tickets and further provided the price for such tickets is the same, regardless of the form or transferability of such tickets.”
“In seeking these legislative initiatives, we are asking that you agree with consumers that when they purchase a ticket, the power is theirs,” Vaccaro said. “The power to decide who goes to the event with them. The power to decide what type of ticket – such as hard paper tickets, e-tickets, etc. – best suits their lifestyle. And, most importantly, the power to spend their money knowing that the money they spend on live entertainment events is protected from being lost, forfeited or fraught with control from the monopolists who control this market and seek to limit their choices.”
John Breyault, vice president of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud for the National Consumers League (NCL), told the committee that ticket holdbacks lack transparency for fans to know if they have a fair shot at buying tickets. He added, however, that he would like to see the language about holdbacks be strengthened to include better definitions of what is exempted as it relates to holdbacks.
“NCL supports the goal of H.B. 6298, which seeks to protect consumers’ right to sell and purchase tickets on the secondary market,” Breyault said. “Protections for season ticket holders from having their ticket packages revoked for reselling tickets are common-sense, pro-consumer policy. The requirement that consumers have the option to receive paper tickets as well as paperless tickets allows consumers who wish it to benefit from the convenience of paperless ticketing while preserving the rights of consumers to easily transfer or resell their tickets.”
Text of the proposed bill includes the following:
No person shall deny access to an entertainment event to a ticket holder who possesses a resold ticket to such entertainment event based solely on the grounds that such ticket has been resold.
No person shall employ a ticketing sales system that fails to give the purchaser an option to purchase tickets that the purchaser may transfer to any party, at any price and at any time, without additional fees and without the consent of the person employing such ticketing system.
No operator of a place of entertainment or such operator’s agent shall require the purchaser of a ticket to an entertainment event to choose ‘will call’ as the purchaser’s only ticket delivery option or otherwise restrict such purchaser’s ability to pick up tickets from a box office or will call window in advance of such event. Nothing in this section shall prohibit such operator or agent from requiring a ticket purchaser to pick up tickets during a box office’s normal business hours.
No person shall withhold tickets to an entertainment event from the general public in an amount exceeding five per cent of all available seating for such event. For purposes of this section, ‘available seating for such event’ shall not include seats subject to technical holds or contractual obligations of the venue or for which tickets are distributed or sold to or held by or for any person who: (1) Subscribes for or has a contractual right to acquire at face value tickets to events at such venue on a regular or recurring basis; (2) has made payment, the proceeds of which have been applied to the capital costs of developing or renovating the facility or producing the event; or (3) is a member of a fan club or subscription group for the applicable performer.
Each operator of a place of entertainment or such operator’s agent selling tickets to an entertainment event shall offer the purchaser of such tickets the option to purchase or pick up such tickets from the place of entertainment or box office at a price that does not include a service fee.
If the law is eventually passed, violating it would be a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.