Slow Progress in US Ticketing Reforms Sparks Widespread Concern

by Joshua Brown
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Ticketing Industry Reforms

In the aftermath of public furor regarding exorbitant prices for tickets to Taylor Swift’s summer tour, progress on legislative reforms aimed at safeguarding consumers has been sluggish. The uproar had originally led to Congressional hearings and prompted states to consider new consumer protection laws.

A decade after the conclusion of Swift’s U.S. tour, not much has changed. The majority of substantial reforms advocated by consumer groups and industry stakeholders have not materialized. Despite proposals put forth, the U.S. Senate has yet to move forward on any significant legislation. Moreover, a bill in Colorado was vetoed by the Democratic governor, acting on advice from various consumer organizations.

In California, once a hotspot for legislative action on consumer protection issues, efforts have been reduced to a single law against hidden fees—a measure that most major industry entities have already volunteered to implement. The lackluster outcome led Robert Herrell, the executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, to express his disappointment: “The lack of action is an embarrassment and wholly inadequate.”

The inertia in modifying the ticketing sales and resale landscape underscores not only resistance from the industry but also the regulatory complications introduced by technology. Physical box offices are now largely obsolete; nearly all ticket transactions occur online, often with additional fees only disclosed at the last moment.

Furthermore, the ticketing process has grown increasingly opaque. Venues frequently refrain from disclosing the number of available seats, opting instead to release tickets in increments. This creates a false sense of urgency among consumers, who end up spending more under the assumption of scarcity.

Unethical practices also persist, with some parties using specialized software to bulk-purchase tickets for resale at elevated prices. These entities sometimes engage in “speculative ticketing,” selling tickets they do not yet possess—a practice consumer advocates consider precarious and untrustworthy.

Sharp divisions between consumer organizations, venues, ticket vendors, and artists have convoluted what should be clear-cut issues of consumer rights. While artists and venues aim to restrict ticket resales to prevent secondary market exploitation, consumer groups assert that ticket buyers should have the freedom to resell their purchases.

This ideological divide contributed to the veto of the Colorado bill, which had otherwise consumer-friendly components like the prohibition of hidden fees and speculative ticket sales.

In California, much of the debate has targeted Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster, which dominates the U.S. ticketing market. However, the implications extend to artists, major sports teams, and smaller venues as well. Julia Heath, president of the California chapter of the National Independent Venue Association, stated, “Though the target may be major players like Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the fallout affects a broader spectrum.”

The biggest bone of contention revolves around the right to resell purchased tickets. A bill granting venues and artists this power passed the Senate but was ultimately rejected by the Assembly after drawing ire from consumer advocates. Another bill aimed at forbidding such restrictions was also weakened due to strong industry pushback.

Industry stakeholders are equally dissatisfied. Heath described the situation as a “missed opportunity,” underscoring existing issues that need resolution. On the other hand, Jenn Engstrom, the state director for the California Public Interest Research Group, argues that even incremental changes, such as the ban on hidden fees, constitute progress.

Given the state of affairs, it appears that the struggle for meaningful reforms in the ticketing industry is far from over, with all sides recognizing the need for more comprehensive solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ticketing Industry Reforms

What prompted the need for legislative reforms in the U.S. ticketing industry?

The need for reforms was sparked by public outrage over exorbitant ticket prices, particularly highlighted by Taylor Swift’s summer tour. This led to Congressional hearings and state-level legislative proposals aiming to protect consumers.

What has been the outcome of legislative attempts to reform the ticketing industry?

The legislative attempts have largely been unsuccessful. Despite multiple proposals, the U.S. Senate has failed to advance any significant reforms. Bills at the state level have faced similar fates, either getting vetoed or watered down.

Why have reforms been slow to materialize?

Reforms have been slow due to strong resistance from industry stakeholders, as well as regulatory complexities introduced by technology. These factors have led to a lack of consensus among venues, ticket sellers, consumer groups, and artists.

What are some of the unethical practices currently in the ticketing market?

Unethical practices include the use of software to bulk-purchase tickets for resale at inflated prices, the act of “speculative ticketing,” and the imposition of hidden fees, often disclosed only at the last moment before purchase.

How does technology affect the current state of the ticketing industry?

Technology has shifted ticket sales predominantly online, making the process less transparent. This has led to hidden fees, undisclosed seat availability, and an environment that allows for manipulation and deceptive practices.

Are there any states that have made progress in implementing reforms?

California has managed to pass a law banning hidden fees, although this has been criticized as insufficient. Some other states like New York and Connecticut have also implemented similar measures.

What are the conflicting viewpoints between consumer groups and the industry?

Consumer groups argue for transparency and the freedom to resell tickets, whereas industry stakeholders like artists and venues aim to restrict reselling to prevent exploitation of the secondary market.

What is the “secondary market” in the context of ticket sales?

The secondary market refers to the reselling of tickets by individuals or entities other than the original seller. Artists and venues often criticize this market for inflating prices and exploiting consumers.

How do industry stakeholders feel about the current state of reforms?

Both consumer advocates and industry stakeholders are generally dissatisfied with the current state of reforms. While consumer groups seek more comprehensive protections, industry voices see missed opportunities for effective change.

Is there any middle ground or incremental change considered a win for consumers?

Some view the banning of hidden fees as an incremental win for consumers, despite the lack of more comprehensive reforms. This perspective is supported by those who believe in achieving change through smaller steps.

More about Ticketing Industry Reforms

  • Consumer Protection Laws in the United States
  • U.S. Congressional Hearings on Ticket Sales
  • State-Level Legislation on

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