The Federal Trade Commission has responded to a recent call by several members of Congress for increased oversight of live event ticketing, promising “vigorous enforcement” against alleged monopolistic behaviour in the space. The organization issued its response last week in a letter from acting chair Rebecca Slaughter.
“I agree that vigorous enforcement is critical to ensuring competitive markets and protecting consumers, and I share your strong interest in protecting consumers who buy live event tickets” Slaughter says in the letter. “I believe that the Commission should use the full breadth of its authority to address anticompetitive conduct. I am committed to using all of the Commission’s law enforcement tools to protect consumers in the live ticketing market, including our competition and our consumer protection authority.”
The FTC held an online event tickets workshop in 2019, with numerous stakeholders called to participate and share their perspectives on the live event ticketing landscape. That workshop was largely held due to an April 2018 Government Accountability Office report examining the ticketing market, which was spurred by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). Pascrell, who has long pushed for reform in what he calls a “corrupt” ticketing ecosystem dominated by monopolistic entities, was one of the members of Congress whose letter this spring prompted the FTC’s response.
“We are gratified that the FTC shares our urgent concern to protect American consumers and apply real oversight to the live events ticket marketplace,” said Reps. Pascrell, Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in response to the FTC. “As the country emerges from the pandemic, Americans are eager to go to live events including games and concerts. This demand sholld nnot be used to shake down consumers. Given past practices, the FTC and the Justice Department should also investigate the live nation-Ticketmaster monopoly for its unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices. Millions of consumers have waited long enough for relief.”
Bringing that relief may still prove difficult for organizations such as the FTC and Justice Department, which Slaughter pointed out in her letter. She cites that FTC funding “has not kept up with the increasing demand on our competition and consumer protection work,” which makes it increasingly difficult to bring proper oversight, particularly against companies with near-limitless resources such as Live Nation. In one notable example of this power, Live Nation was sued by a competitor, which alleged it had illegally accessed its systems to gather intelligence to use against it. After this information was shared among senior management and used to poach its clients, Live Nation simply purchased what was left of that company and settled the lawsuit. Later, Live Nation avoided prosecution for the hacking crimes that later came to light by paying a $10 million fine.
Slaughter also pointed out that recent court cases have made it more difficult for the agency to “enjoin illegal conduct and seek monetary redress” in instances of action taken against anticompetitive practices, urging that the members of congress who wish to see action taken in live event ticketing by the FTC make sure it continues to have the tools to do so going forward.
“Thank you again for your vigilance in promoting a fully competitive and fair marketplace for live event ticketing, and I am eager to work with you in this effort,” she closes.
The full letter from Slaughter is available here.