The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C. dubbed “In the Dark: Lack of Transparency in the Live Event Ticketing Industry.” Six representatives of leaders in ticketing answered questions for members of congress.
Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) was quick to praise his colleagues on the subcommittee. Pascrell authored the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing legislation – better known as the BOSS Act – and has spent over a decade pushing for further regulation of the ticket industry.
“Today’s groundbreaking hearing has helped to expose the utter lack of transparency and even corruption rampant in the live events ticketing industry,” Rep. Pascrell said in a statement. “For far too long, millions of American fans just trying to get a little entertainment have been victimized by an endless conga line of deceptive practices, hidden fees, add-ons, and gimmicks created by the ticketing industry. Congress is moving to finally clean up live events ticketing.”
Pascrell also noted that the questioning held by Chairman Frank Pallone and Chairwoman Diana DeGette was integral in providing relief to fans who fell subject to the deceptive practices and transparency issues at the forefront of the hearing.
Netchoice, a D.C.-based trade association of businesses, shared similar sentiments. The organization minced no words when it came to the hearing’s oversight into Ticketmaster having been an outspoken opponent of its practices. Netchoice also called for further investigations into Ticketmaster and parent company Live Nation.
“Ticketmaster’s anti-competitive practices present an opportunity for antitrust enforcement that would be both popular and necessary,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel. “This hearing showed that now is the time for an antitrust investigation of Ticketmaster and LiveNation. Investigating Ticketmaster for anti-consumer behavior would produce a slam-dunk case for the DOJ and FTC, proving both are well-prepared to protect consumers in the 2020s. Ticketmaster has been denying fans choice and convenience by using anti-competitive and dark practices. We look forward to further government action including the passage of the BOSS Act to protect consumers.”
During the hearing, President and COO of Ticketmaster, North America, Amy Howe, claimed that Ticketmaster has no control over holdbacks – a common tactic in the industry that limits the number of tickets offered to consumers at the initial on sale which decreases supply and inflates prices. Fan Freedom, an organization aimed to combat emerging abusive ticket practices, believes that Live Nation “attempted to frame the hearing to benefit its monopolistic practices.”
“Ms. Howe’s statement that artists determine holdbacks and control ticket transfers is incredibly misleading,” Fan Freedom President Chris VanDeHoef said in a press release. “Ticketmaster is wholly owned by Live Nation Entertainment, the world’s largest artist management company and venue operator. The idea that Ticketmaster has no control over how tickets are held back or transferred is laughable.”
Additionally, the organization was not impressed with Howe’s response to non-transferable tickets. The promoter giant reportedly claimed that 5 million fraudulent tickets are sold every year and Ticketmaster will maintain its ability to sell nontransferable tickets in an effort to combat fraud. Fan Freedom believes that nontransferable tickets “limit competition, increase prices and hinder the ability of consumers to buy, resell or give away tickets in a free market,” noting that the Live Nation Entertainment monopoly is “the biggest obstacle to consumer protection in the live event ticketing industry” and the only way to ensure action on the matter is for Congress to pass the BOSS Act.