New Jersey’s legislature is currently considering legislation designed to protect consumer ticket rights for events held in the state, as well as requiring that fees be disclosed up front when tickets are sold. The bill was introduced earlier this month by Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer, a republican who represents District 12, including portions of Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
The bill, introduced on July 2 as Assembly Bill 4344, addresses fees charged for tickets and the format that they can be issued by primary ticket providers. According to the statement provided with its submission:
This bill establishes that primary sellers of tickets to places of entertainment are required to provide the ticket buyer the option to purchase a paper ticket and to notify ticket buyers of any fees added to the total price of a ticket, including, but not limited to, service fees, convenience fees, or venue fees. A violation of the bill’s provisions is an unlawful practice under the consumer fraud act. An unlawful practice under the consumer fraud act is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, violations of the bill may result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages, and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party.
The bill also amends current law to require the full price of a ticket purchased by a ticket broker, including the base price and fees, including, but not limited to, any service fee, convenience fee, or venue fee that is added to the base price, be disclosed prior to the purchase of a ticket.
In essence, the law would protect consumers from being forced to accept tickets in whatever format the venue or rights-holder preferred – generally mobile-only tickets that have been shown to be harmful to consumer choice and even potentially discriminatory due to the lack of universal access to devices which can operate the required systems. They have also been shown to be used to enormously invasive ends in terms of data they harvest from users, despite testimony to the contrary from Ticketmaster and AXS executives in front of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. And that’s not even addressing the potential for anti-competitive behavior by primary ticket marketplaces also engaged in secondary ticketing who could use such systems to restrict resale to platforms they own.
Similar laws exist in several states, including Connecticut and New York adjacent to New Jersey – which is why the Buffalo Bills were the only NFL team allowing fans to choose the format for their tickets over the wishes of their ticketing provider.
The other provision would pave the way towards all-in pricing for consumers, which would show the full price of a ticket from the start of the transaction process rather than the current “drip-pricing” model preferred by many ticketing marketplaces, which hide fees until the end of a transaction. At the FTC workshop last June in Washington D.C., ticketing executives indicated a willingness to switch to such a model – but only if it were required for all, as being the lone up-front pricing participant in a marketplace full of competitors showing lower prices with hidden fees leads to an enormous competitive disadvantage when consumers sort by price in their search for tickets.
The full proposed language of the changes to existing law is included below:
An Act concerning tickets to places of entertainment, and amending and supplementing P.L.1983, c.135.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. (New section) a. A primary seller selling tickets for entry to a place of entertainment through means other than a physical box office, including, but not limited to, an Internet website, a mobile website or a mobile application, shall:
(1) provide the option for a ticket buyer to receive a paper ticket; and
(2) notify the ticket buyer of any fees included in the total price of a ticket, including, but not limited to, any service fee, convenience fee, or venue fee.
b. A violation of this section shall be an unlawful practice pursuant to P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.).
c. As used in this section:
“Paper ticket” means a physical ticket issued by a primary seller.
“Primary seller” means an owner or operator of a venue or a sports team, a manager or provider of an event, or a provider of ticketing services, or an agent of such owner, operator, manager, or provider, that engages in the primary sale of tickets for an event or retains the authority to otherwise distribute tickets.
2. Section 8 of P.L.1983, c.135 (C.56:8-33) is amended to read as follows:
8. a. The seller of a ticket shall notify a ticket purchaser of the full purchase price of a ticket, including the base price of the ticket and a list of any fees, including, but not limited to, any service fee, convenience fee, or venue fee, added to the base price, prior to the purchase of that ticket from that ticket seller by that purchaser.
b. No reseller other than a registered ticket broker shall resell or purchase with the intent to resell a ticket for admission to a place of entertainment at a maximum premium in excess of 20% of the ticket price or $3.00, whichever is greater, plus lawful taxes. No registered ticket broker shall resell or purchase with the intent to resell a ticket for admission to a place of entertainment at a premium in excess of 50% of the price paid to acquire the ticket, plus lawful taxes.
c. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection a. or b. of this section, nothing shall limit the price for the resale or purchase of a ticket for admission to a place of entertainment sold by any reseller other than a registered ticket broker, provided such resale or purchase is made through an Internet web site.
(cf: P.L.2018, c.117, s.2)
3. This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following enactment.