New Jersey legislators are considering two bills that could bring consumer ticket rights in line with neighboring states New York and Connecticut this week.
Billed as the New Jersey Ticket Consumer Choice Act, the parallel bills propose to add to New Jersey’s books protections and privileges for consumers that would bring it more in line with states like Colorado, Virginia, Utah, and Illinois in addition to its neighbors to the north and east. Those bills – S376 and A3194 – are both scheduled for hearings Monday at 10:00am. The senate Bill, S376 is schedule for a hearing and voting the Senate Commerce Committee. The house bill A3194 is scheduled for a hearing and voting in the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts committee.
“This bill would guarantee the right of New Jersey ticket purchasers to opt-out of ticket restrictions that limit their ability to use, sell, or give away the tickets they have purchased,” reads the statement introducing the legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg (District 37 – Bergen) and Robert W. Singer (District 30 – Monmouth and Ocean). Assembly members Gordon M. Johnson (District 37), Clinton Calabrese (District 36 – Bergen & Passaic) and Robert J. Karabinchak (District 18 – Middlesex) co-sponsor A3194. Beyond the primary sponsors, a large number of additional legislators have signed on to the bills as co-sponsors, totalling more than 10 percent of the entire roster of Senators and 20 percent of Assembly members.
When the bills were initially submitted earlier this year, consumer rights organizations including Fan Freedom and the Sports Fans Coalition came out in support of the legislation, citing the additional consumer protections and benefits conferred on New Jersey residents for tickets purchased to live events. Opposition to these bills comes primarily from ticketing giants like Ticketmaster, who hope to continue their limitation of consumer rights using proprietary technology like non-transferable tickets.
What the Bills Cover
At its core, the New Jersey Ticket Consumer Choice Act updates the legal framework around live event tickets to make them something that the consumer actually owns when they pay for it, vs. the current industry-favored system that makes them more of a rental of the right to attend something with very restricted conditions. They allow consumers – not event promoters – to decide what they want to do with a ticket and limits the ability of event operators to put conditions on usage and resale.
Much of this is due to the legislation taking on the usage of non-transferable ticket systems. These systems allow event operators to issue tickets in a digital-only format that is locked to a particular system, such as Ticketmaster’s “Safe Tix,” which are accessible only by downloading and accessing the tickets through the Ticketmaster mobile application.
Such systems come with them a number of troubling consumer issues. Mobile apps require users to opt-in to enormous amounts of personal data being harvested, which can be shared with marketing partners or sold. The also allow organizers to restrict the ability to transfer or resell tickets to events – forcing those who purchase tickets and can’t use them to either resell using the original ticketing platform (eliminating any competition for the primary seller operating as a reseller), or even forcing users who are sick and would list tickets for resale to go to the event anyways rather than taking the financial hit. Troublesome practices such as “floor pricing” – where an artificial rather than market-driven minimum ticket listing price is enforced to keep prices high – are also enabled by restricted ticketing systems.
In the age of COVID, this is an egregious and troubling deployment of technology, and is actively happening in states without such consumer protections against non-transferable tickets in place. A convention in Boston was linked to hundreds of thousands of COVID cases after infected individuals returned to their communities. Removing transfer and resale options from consumers encourages, rather than discourages, people who don’t feel well to attend events regardless, and leaves those who are restricted by government rules – such as those in place from the CDC – from travel before a show with no options whatsoever
Visit TicketNews’ sub-section on non-transferable tickets for more details about this practice.
All in all, the New Jersey Ticket Consumer Choice Act brings forward a number of important consumer protections for the live event ecosystem. It is expected to see a furious lobby against put forth by primary ticketing interests, which will likely be manifested at Monday’s hearings in front of the legislature. Currently, the laws protecting consumers in New York and Connecticut can already be enforced for events in New Jersey if they were purchased by consumers in Connecticut or New York. The question now is whether or not New Jersey legislators will provide those same protections for their own constituents.