With Minnesota legislators in the midst of discussions over whether paperless tickets will be regulated, Minneapolis’ Target Center will give refunds to fans who cannot attend a show, according to the arena’s director of ticketing.

The move challenges the long-held policy of many ticketing entities not to offer refunds, unless an event is canceled or rescheduled. Target Center uses Live Nation’s Ticketmaster as its ticket provider, and on the Ticketmaster Web site it does not spell out that refunds are available for fans who cannot attend a show. However, Ticketmaster has a three-day return guarantee with some venues in which fans can return tickets within three days of purchase, and the ticketer also promises to listen and try to work with fans if there are problems.

The issue of refunds is an important one in the debate over paperless tickets because in some cases such digital tickets are not transferable. In such instances, fans would have the option of returning their ticket if they changed their mind or could not otherwise attend an event.

David Balcer, director of ticketing at the Target Center, which is home to major concerts and the Minnesota Timberwolves, told state Senators last week the arena wants fans to be happy.

“The transferability part, we’re here to assist the fan,” Balcer said. “Obviously, circumstances come up where you can’t attend the show. We want those fans to continue to come back to our arena, so we’re going to do everything within our power to assist that fan. If it’s a refund, it’s a simple refund.

“If they wanted a refund, we would refund everything with the exception of the method of delivery, if they UPS’d the tickets we would obviously not refund that because it’s not technically ours.”

Currently, New York is the only state to regulate paperless tickets, though in addition to Minnesota, Connecticut is also considering similar legislation. Under the New York law, paperless tickets are permitted, but if they are nontransferable then traditional paper tickets must be offered as an option at check out.

The proposed Minnesota legislation would ban restrictive paperless tickets that are not transferable. Ticketmaster’s paperless technology is restrictive, but rival ticketing company Veritix offers a competing product, called Flash Seats, that allows for transfer or resale through its proprietary exchange. Ticketmaster has the ability to offer a similar form of transfer through its TicketExchange, but it gives artists the choice of whether to allow paperless tickets to be transferable.

In addition to the Target Center, several other venues in the state, Minnesota’s major professional sports teams and some of the state’s promoters oppose the proposed law because they believe allowing restrictive paperless tickets would freeze out the secondary ticket market.

While paperless tickets may impose inconveniences for some fans, Balcer and the others opponents believe the benefits far outweigh those annoyances because the technology can render the use of bot software almost meaningless. Bot software allows users to circumvent internet security protocols and buy large blocks of tickets in seconds, often shutting out fans before they get a chance to buy tickets. Even though the use of bot software has been banned in Minnesota and several other states, Balcer said he still sees it in use by some brokers.

“Our goal is to provide a fair and efficient process to ensure that our fans are the ones who can buy great seats at face value for events at our center. For many concertgoers, scalpers and brokers do make this near impossible for this to take place. One method artists have at their disposal, to ensure that the fans are buying the tickets is utilizing this paperless software which limits the transferability of the tickets,” Balcer said.

“In most cases, this does take away transferability, but it does so at the benefit of the fan. That’s important to note. If artists hear that their fans don’t like this technology, then they’ll simply not use it. Everybody in this industry is in it for the fans,” he added.

Proponents of the Minnesota bill believe that restricting the transferability of paperless tickets is anti-consumer and anti-free market. They argue that fans own the ticket, and as such should be allowed to do whatever they want with it, whether it is give it to a friend or family member or sell it on the secondary market.

A nonprofit consumer advocacy group, the Fan Freedom Project, was recently launched to fight for fans rights as it pertains to the transferability of paperless tickets.

“Giving the artist the ability, in certain cases, to not allow the transfer of tickets does give the upper hand to the actual fans that want to attend concerts at Target Center and simply pay face value,” Balcer said.

The Minnesota Senate’s Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee is slated to vote on the proposal tomorrow, March 9.

Last Updated on March 9, 2011