Consumer advocates published the following Op-Ed in the Denver Post. The piece, coming in response to the passage of a Ticketmaster/AXS-written bill through both houses of the Colorado legislature against strong opposition from consumer ticket rights supporters, urges Gov. Jared Polis to veto the bill. 

Opinion: Don’t let Ticketmaster and AXS write Colorado laws

Polis should veto Senate Bill 60 which consolidates power in the ticketing market

Last week, lawmakers gave permission to Live Nation’s Ticketmaster and AEG’s AXS to deceive consumers when tickets go on sale, and to turn a blind eye to illegal software bots that scoop up tickets before humans can instead of reporting their usage to law enforcement. Gov. Jared Polis should unequivocally veto this legislation.

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The original draft of Senate Bill 60 while titled “Consumer Protection in Event Ticketing Sales” was not designed to protect consumers. Instead, it cleverly consolidated power to favor the ticketing duopoly of Ticketmaster and AXS to the detriment of the very “consumers” the bill claimed to protect.

These were the companies that pushed for the legislation and participated in its initial drafting. Consumer organizations were never consulted. It was a rare bill that claimed to protect consumers yet did not have the endorsement of a single consumer protection group. In fact, some of the largest and longest-standing advocates actively opposed the bill because of the litany of harm it would cause.

Fortunately, the House of Representatives amended the bill to include two vital consumer protections – the disclosure of deceptive “ticket holdbacks” that involve tickets secretly not being made available when tickets go on sale to the public, and the reporting of illegal software bot usage when buying tickets.

While consumer groups including the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America, the Sports Fans Coalition and others endorsed the bill as a result of these amendments, the industry went ballistic. They did not want the consumer perspective to alter their plans, and the conference committee too ignored the calls of consumers, audaciously declaring these amendments “unworthy and unworkable.”

Deceptive ticket holdbacks are a well-documented problem that has been investigated by the US GAO, New York Attorney General, and the City and County of Honolulu. It is not uncommon for up to half of the tickets for an event to be secretly held back from the public when tickets go on sale. This misleading industry scheme creates fake scarcity to induce a ticket-buying frenzy so that consumers panic, and believing there are scarce tickets left, are compelled to buy now at whatever the price.

Consumers without special or exclusive access to pre-sales are abused during this shady public on-sale of tickets, and many miss work or school to spend hours in an online waiting room only to be left with intentionally opaque options. When the true inventory of tickets is not presented to fans, they are not in a position to make the best possible purchase decision. They should know if and when more tickets will be released and put on sale.

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Software bots used to purchase tickets may certainly be a problem, but they are also an easy scapegoat for Ticketmaster and AXS. These corporations blame bots for ruining the fan experience, but the fact is federal law already prohibits the use of bots to buy tickets to events. This law has only been enforced once, however, because these ticket sellers are not reporting this insidious activity to law enforcement.

Due to their substantial size in the marketplace, these companies are in the best position to stop bots by coordinating with law enforcement. Reporting requirements are a logical step to improving the fan experience. Instead, however, they had this provision yanked from the legislation.

Senate Bill 60 briefly presented an opportunity to level the playing field for consumers in the live event ticketing space, but as key amendments were stripped from the bill it will permit deceptive sales and tolerate illegal bot usage, therefore consumer advocates can no longer support the legislation. We once again oppose the bill. It is unacceptable for consumers to begin their ticket-buying journey, which can be stressful enough on its own, under a blanket of deception.

The amendments that consumer advocates worked hard to include in SB 60 are worth fighting for because while they may not satisfy large, billion-dollar ticket corporations that know their way around the halls of the capital, they actually protect consumers.

Erin Witte is the director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America. Brian Hess is the executive director of Sports Fans Coalition.