Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, have called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate online ticket brokers that allegedly mislead ticket buyers by using Web sites that resemble specific venues.
Sens. Reed and Whitehouse wrote to the FTC earlier this month calling into question ProvidencePAC.org, a secondary ticket broker Web site that was recently taken down, that may have confused some ticket buyers that it was affiliated with the Rhode Island’s Providence Performing Arts Center. The arts center’s official Web site is PPACRI.org.
The broker site, like others in the secondary ticket marketplace, listed tickets for a premium above face value, in some cases nearly 10-times above the original price. Some tickets were also listed speculatively, meaning they were listed for sale before the broker had the tickets in hand.
Before the site was taken down, it carried a disclaimer in small letters at the top that it was a ticket resale site and was not affiliated with any venue or box office: “We are an independently owned and operated site specializing in sales in the secondary market. We are not affiliated with any primary website, venue or box office.”
“When consumers mistakenly believe they are purchasing tickets from a trusted source, there is serious potential for fraud,” Sens. Reed and Whitehouse said in a joint statement. The site allegedly confused some buyers because it contained copyrighted images from the Providence Performing Arts Center. “We want the FTC to investigate these practices and take appropriate actions to protect consumers.”
A spokesperson for the FTC said they do not comment on possible investigations, and in this case they could not yet confirm that the agency had received the senators’ letter. Sens. Reed and Whitehouse were first alerted to the site through a recent story in the Providence Journal.
The site’s owner has not been disclosed, but the call center that serviced the site was provided by third-party ticket exchange TicketNetwork, which offers similar services for other broker Web sites. TicketNetwork is located in Vernon, CT.
“TicketNetwork takes intellectual property rights very seriously,” Viveca Woods, spokesperson for TicketNetwork, said in a statement. “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. 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.”
Rhode Island prohibits ticket resale for $3 or 10 percent above face value, whichever is greater, but that regulation does not apply to internet sales that originate from out of state.
“TicketNetwork does not own, control or manage the content on the site in question,” Woods added. “TicketNetwork’s online exchange is featured on the site (an online ticket marketplace where tickets are exchanged by buyers and sellers), and we are equipped to handle customer inquiries. We are prohibited from disclosing the name of the owner without prior written consent of the site owner.”
TicketNetwork is the parent company of TicketNews.