In the second day of hearings concerning Minnesota’s proposed new ticket resale law, representatives from two of the state’s professional teams hinted that they would ensure that paperless tickets remain transferable, a sentiment that could possibly help proponents of the consumer-friendly bill convince legislators to pass it.
During a public hearing before the state Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee Wednesday, March 2, representatives of the Minnesota Wild hockey team and the Minnesota Vikings said that while they support the use of paperless tickets, they want fans to have a choice in what they do with them. The proposed Senate bill, SF425, is very similar to the House version, which would ban the use of restrictive paperless event tickets that are not easily transferable.
Currently, 110 Wild fans use paperless tickets, and according to a team spokesperson, they are not restricted in who they transfer the tickets to, nor are they limited in the amount for which they can resell them.
Some paperless ticket systems, such as the one promoted by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division, are a closed-loop system that can prohibit the resale or transfer of a ticket, and can set price floors or ceilings for what a consumer might charge if they are allowed to resell the ticket.
Opponents of the bill essentially want to keep control of how paperless tickets are used, which they say is designed to help consumers obtain tickets instead of scalpers. While, proponents of the bill want consumers and resellers to have the right to do what they want with the ticket.
“We’re in the business of selling tickets, we want them to have the best experience possible,” said Jack Larson, vice president and general manager of the Xcel Energy Center where the Wild play. He opposes the bill.
John Neppl, manager of ticket sales for the Minnesota Vikings, said the team currently does not utilize paperless tickets, so all of their tickets are transferable. If the team did begin using the technology, Neppl said “We would make sure that all of our tickets would remain transferable.” Neppl also opposes the bill.
“There is a place for a legitimate secondary market for event ticket sales and transfers, and we want to see that continue,” said Republican Sen. Chris Gerlach, the chief sponsor of the bill. “This bill seeks to preserve that secondary market for consumers, so that a consumer who purchases a ticket to an event is allowed to transfer it – sell it or give it to someone – without overly burdensome restrictions.”
He continued, “The central issue is on the ownership of the ticket. Some will say that a ticket is simply a lease for a seat for a predetermined amount of time, and there is some case law to back that up. Others, like myself, would say that there are private property rights at stake. You paid for an event ticket that has value, you have ownership stake in that, and if you want to give that to somebody, or transfer or sell that to somebody, that you ought to be allowed to do that.”
Gerlach added that the legislature is not charged with looking at whether the secondary market should or should not exist because it is already a fact of law and it already exists. “This is about consumers, individuals not corporations, and the freedoms of those individuals.”
Dave St. Peter, president of the Minnesota Twins, said the team currently does not utilize paperless tickets but believes the technology may benefit fans because it would help to keep tickets out of the hands of resellers, many of whom are from out of state. “The biggest battle here is between scalpers and fans, and the scalpers are winning.”
Minnesota concert promoter Randy Levine, who also opposes the bill, said that some artists may choose not to play shows in the state. “It’s a scalper vs. artist battle. What this bill is proposing is a barrier that artists will have to make a decision.”
David Balcer, director of ticketing at the Target Center, appeared to disagree with that sentiment, though he also opposes the bill. Balcer said that if artists hear that their fans do not like paperless technology, then the artists will likely stop using it. But, artists and venues believe that using restrictive paperless tickets is an effective deterrent to scalpers snapping up large blocks of tickets because they would be unable to easily resell them.
Yet, Balcer and others said that as for the issue of transferability, he said that fans who may not be unable to attend a show often have the option of a refund prior to the event.
“If you want your constituents to have a reasonably fair shot at obtaining tickets, I urge you not to pass this legislation,” Balcer said.
eBay senior manager of government relations Dustin Brighton, a proponent of the bill, said there are three tenets to an open ticket market that are at play here: Consumers have legitimate reasons to resell tickets, interoperability or transferability won’t harm consumers, and marketplace competition will lead to innovation and better services at lower prices.
StubHub, which is owned by eBay, already works with Ticketmaster, Tickets.com and other companies on the delivery of certain electronic tickets, Brighton said, so he sees no reason why Ticketmaster cannot offer a secure paperless ticket that is transferable. Representatives for Ticketmaster were not present at the hearing.
“Technology should be used to empower consumers, not restrict them,” Brighton said.
Dan Pullium, director of government relations for third-party ticket exchange TicketNetwork, said the proposal will provide balance and consumer protections by ensuring that fans have a choice as to the type of ticket they purchase.
“Nothing in this proposed bill will prevent any team or venue from running a technologically advanced paperless ticketing system,” Pullium said. “In passing this bill, you will ensure that the intended result of the 2007 law to have an open market in Minnesota is maintained.”
Jon Potter, founder and president of the Fan Freedom Project (FFP), agreed. The FFP is a nonprofit consumer advocacy group that educates the public about the difficulties with restrictive paperless tickets. More than 7,000 people have signed up with FFP, more than 400 of whom are located in Minnesota.
“Imagine if your Vikings hat, Wild jersey or Twins bobblehead came with resale prohibitions that required you to resell them, if you were allowed to, back at the stadium where you acquired it,” Potter said.
“That’s essentially what’s happening with tickets. If you buy a ticket and you pay full price, you’re being told that a.) you cannot sell it, or b.) you have to go back to the original dealer and they will tell you what price you can sell it at. That’s not American.”
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.