The New York State Assembly and Senate this week both overwhelmingly approved a motion to renew the state’s paperless ticketing regulations, putting pressure on Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division and others who objected to the proposal.
The law prohibits ticket issuers from using restrictive paperless tickets if they have not provided a traditional paper ticket or other easily transferable alternative when a fan buys the ticket at check out. (See partial text below.)
Before its renewal, the New York law was set to expire on May 15, but now it awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature, which is expected at some point in the near future. Upon its adoption, the law will be in effect for one year through May 14, 2012.
Last year, New York was the first state to regulate paperless tickets as part of a push to protect consumers’ rights and preserve a free, open secondary ticket market, so the renewal is an important victory for its supporters. Since the law’s initial adoption, several states — Connecticut, Minnesota and North Carolina chief among them — have begun discussions on similar legislation.
Venue operators, concert promoters, sports teams and others have opposed such proposals, in part because they believe that restrictive paperless ticket systems, primarily employed by Ticketmaster, add a layer of security and can thwart the resale of tickets for prices in excess of face value. Such tickets restrict transfer by requiring the purchaser to swipe a credit card, used to buy the tickets, at the gate to gain entry to an event.
Several artists, including Bruce Springsteen, and younger performers John Mayer, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, have used paperless tickets on recent tours, and it remains to be seen whether they, or other artists, will bypass playing in New York over the next year as a result of the law’s renewal.
Consumer advocacy groups, and representatives of the secondary ticket market, have argued that fans cannot give away or resell such tickets to friends, family members or others.
“FFP is pleased that the State of New York will continue to support consumer ticketing choice,” Jon Potter, president of the Fan Freedom Project (FFP), told TicketNews. The advocacy group was launched earlier this year to combat the rise of restrictive paperless tickets. “We will continue to educate consumers to ensure they understand this important choice, and we remind all consumers to be vigilant when buying tickets to ensure that producers and Ticketmaster are not devaluing event tickets without their knowledge.”
John Breyault, vice president of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud for the National Consumers League, agreed, calling on other states to look to the New York law as an example of what their legislation should resemble. In Connecticut, proposed paperless ticket regulation was shelved until the 2012 legislative session, and in Minnesota a similar bill was referred back to committee for further review. The North Carolina bill is still pending.
“We are pleased that consumers in New York will continue to have access to the online secondary market,” Breyault told TicketNews. “Consumer choice is an essential component of an effective competition, particularly in the live event market. We would encourage other states to look to New York for an example of how common-sense ticket choice protections benefit consumers.”
Partial text of New York ticketing law:
§ 25.30. Operator prohibitions. 1. A ticket is a license, issued by the operator of a place of entertainment, for admission to the place of entertainment at the date and time specified on the ticket, subject to the terms and conditions as specified by the operator. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, it shall be prohibited for any operator of a place of entertainment, or operator’s agent, to:
(a) restrict by any means the resale of any tickets included in a subscription or season ticket package as a condition of purchase, as a condition to retain such tickets for the duration of the subscription or season ticket package agreement, or as a condition to retain any contractually agreed upon rights to purchase future subscription or season ticket packages that are otherwise conferred in the subscription or season ticket agreement; (b) deny access to a ticket holder who possesses a resold subscription or season ticket to a performance based solely on the grounds that such ticket has been resold; or (c) employ a paperless ticketing system unless the consumer is given an option to purchase paperless tickets that the consumer can transfer at any price, and at any time, and without additional fees, independent of the operator or operator’s agent. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an operator or operator’s agent may employ a paperless ticketing system that does not allow for independent transferability of paperless tickets only if the consumer is offered an option at the time of initial sale to purchase the same tickets in some other form that is transferrable independent of the operator or operator’s agent including, but not limited to, paper tickets or e-tickets. The established price for any given ticket shall be the same regardless of the form or transferability of such ticket. The ability for a ticket to be transferred independent of the operator or operator’s agent shall not constitute a special service for the purpose of imposing a service charge pursuant to section 25.29 of this article.
2. Additionally, nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit an operator of a place of entertainment from maintaining and enforcing any policies regarding conduct or behavior at or in connection with their venue. Further, nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit an operator of a place of entertainment or such operator’s agent, from restricting the resale of tickets that are offered as part of a targeted promotion, at a discounted price, or for free, to specific individuals or groups of individuals because of their status as, or membership in, a specific community or group, including, but not limited to, persons with disabilities, students, religious or civic organizations, or persons demonstrating economic hardship; provided, however that tickets offered promotionally to the general public shall not be considered as tickets offered to specific individuals or groups of individuals. Any promotional discounted or free tickets for which the operator or operator’s agent restricts resale must be clearly marked as such. An operator shall be permitted to revoke or restrict season tickets for reasons relating to violations of venue policies, including but not limited to, attempts by two or more persons to gain admission to a single event with both the cancelled tickets originally issued to a season ticket holder and those tickets re-issued as part of a resale transaction, and to the extent the operator may deem necessary for the protection of the safety of patrons or to address fraud or misconduct.
3. No operator or operator’s agent shall sell or convey tickets to any secondary ticket reseller owned or controlled by the operator or operator’s agent.
4. The operator or the promoter shall determine whether a seat for which a ticket is for sale has an obstructed view, and shall disclose such obstruction. If the operator or promoter discloses that a seat for which a ticket is for sale has an obstructed view, it shall be the responsibility of the secondary ticket reseller to disclose such obstruction upon the resale of such ticket. Such obstruction shall not include an obstruction of view caused by a person, or persons, seated in an adjacent seat, or seats, or occupying an aisle; or an obstruction of view caused by an object or objects placed upon an adjacent seat or seats, or in an aisle; or an obstruction of view that is de minimus or transitory in nature.