The National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) is calling on ticket resellers to stop deceiving fans with Web sites that appear to be affiliated with venues, box offices and other primary ticket sellers.
In a memorandum sent to its members yesterday, June 16, the broker trade group said it has written proposed language to add to its Code of Ethics about the use of such Web sites, which often use domain names that include the venue name in them. The NATB membership is slated to vote on the matter at its annual meeting during the World Ticket Conference in Las Vegas in July.
“Over the past few months, the NATB has heard from a number of Members in regard to certain practices in the industry which confuse consumers,” the NATB wrote. “The issues arise from certain secondary ticket websites that use domain names and content that could be construed by a consumer to be that it is buying directly from a box office rather than through a reseller. A number of Members mentioned that they have had to issue refunds to consumers who purchased the Member’s inventory through another website that confused the purchaser into to thinking it was buying at face value directly from the source.”
How big a problem the use of such Web sites poses on the industry is unknown, but Google searches can turn up dozens of them, some of which also carry copyrighted images associated with the venue, team or artist the site is trying to align itself with.
The NATB is proposing the following two additions be made to the ethics policy:
Refrain from acting in a manner that is detrimental to the ticket brokerage industry or the NATB including the use of automated devices/programs for the purchase of tickets; creating the false perception of an affiliation with any promoter, team, theater, venue or box office.
Disclose to the purchaser, that the tickets are being purchased in the secondary market and the broker is not affiliated with Ticketmaster, any promoter, team, theater, venue or box office.
Included in the proposed language is also a call for brokers to shun the use of software bots, computer hacking programs that surreptitiously procure large blocks of tickets by overwhelming internet security protocols. The use of software bots was at the crux of the federal criminal case involving Wiseguy Tickets, the principals of which were recently sentenced to probation.
“The Board of Directors has discussed this topic and are of the opinion that the NATB should, in fact, take some affirmative step in dealing with this issue,” the NATB wrote, referring back to the deceptive Web site issue. “A basic principle of the NATB since its inception has been that ticket brokers must self-regulate the secondary market or else others will do it for them. Another foundation of the NATB is to advocate for free and open markets that protect consumers because they can deal with legitimate brokers in a transparent environment. To serve these fundamental purposes, it is imperative that it be clearly communicated that NATB and its Members do not support deceptive practices that can cause a customer to believe he or she is buying tickets from the primary seller when in reality the customer is making a secondary market purchase.”
NATB President Ken Solky, and General Counsel Gary Adler, did not return messages seeking comment.
The NATB’s call for changes comes on the heels of not only the Wiseguys case but also following Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, writing a letter that asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the use of an allegedly deceptive Web site that appeared to be affiliated with the Providence Performing Arts Center. FTC spokesperson Peter Kaplan told TicketNews that the agency does not publicly discuss the status of investigations, or whether an investigation has been launched, but he did confirm that the agency received the letter from Reed and Whitehouse.
That site, Providencepac.org, has been taken down by its unnamed owner, and TicketNetwork, the third-party ticket resale marketplace that provided call center services for the site has promised to cooperate with any investigation.
“TicketNetwork takes intellectual property rights very seriously. When our call center service receives notification that a site that features TicketNetwork’s data feed is infringing, the company takes immediate action as required by the CDA,” Viveca Woods, spokesperson for TicketNetwork, said in a statement. “In this case, the site owner took down the site in question immediately. We look forward to helping U.S. Senators Reed and Whitehouse address their concerns.”
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.