At last month’s hearing on the ticketing industry, members of congress heard testimony pointing out the anti-competitive and privacy-violating potential for ticketing systems that bar consumer choice over tickets they have purchased. In the new normal that we will see once the Covid-19 pandemic winds down, a new potential for such systems exists – public health menace.
If a consumer holding a ticket to an event becomes ill, it is more important than ever before that they have minimal barriers against moving that ticket on to someone else. If it is difficult to resell a ticket, and someone faces the choice between total loss on what they’ve paid for a ticket, or going to the event despite an illness, that puts everybody else in the venue at risk.
In coming months, we may see a number of new innovations in live events coming out of this unprecedented panic. We’ve already seen a new style of seating system designed with appropriate distance between consumers in a time of pandemic proposed. Ticketmaster, AXS and other ticketing vendors should also keep public health in mind and drop their current restrictive transfer systems for the greater good.
Restrictive ticket transfer systems are painted as a method for preventing fraud. But fraud is of minimal concern in ticket resale when consumers use reputable companies with robust consumer protections in place. Their real utility for rights-holders is in the enormous volume of data they generate for marketing purposes and their ability to severely restrain competition or eliminate resale altogether depending on performer preferences.
In a pre-Covid-19 world, objections to these types of systems were restricted to predictable anti-competitive and privacy reasons. Consumers who saw valid tickets they bought legally of their own will from resellers for the Black Keys performance last fall, only to get locked out when “Safetix” was turned on felt the sting. Season ticket holders unable to resell tickets to games they can’t attend because the primary ticket marketplace put in a price floor to protect its ability to move unsold tickets before resale was feasible did too. Consumers getting carpet-bombed by email offers from everyone that had access to their data due to these systems have their own complaints.
Now, there’s a further, and unequivocally important new reason – keeping people safe.
Things are on pause now for all events in the country and much of the world. Hopefully, when they resume, companies still operating will have the good sense to put safety above profit, and give consumers the freedom they deserve to use tickets they’ve purchased in whatever manner they’d like.