Ticket resale bills taken up by State Legislators

Original Source | By: Brad Weissberg, Venues Today

Virginia and Maryland tackle ticket resale bills.

A bill that prohibits companies from restricting the resale of tickets for entertainment and sporting events has passed in the Virginia State Legislature; a similar bill is working its way through the Maryland State Senate.

Both versions of the resale legislation have the attention of industry heavyweights Ticketmaster, which opposes such laws, and StubHub, which is in favor.

Supporters of the bills say they're looking out for the consumer and that ticket buyers should have the right to sell or give away their tickets, which they believe they own once they buy them.

“We are absolutely very much in favor of the legislation,” said Aimee Bateas, global head of public affairs, StubHub. “We’re in favor of any bill that makes ticket resale and availability easier for the consumer. Restrictive methods mean fans lose out.”

The opposition says they, too, have the consumer’s back and that they want to protect fans from being gouged by unscrupulous scalpers and high-tech ticket-buying bots.

“These types of laws are not born from consumer complaints,” said Jared Smith, president, North America, Ticketmaster. “This is about not allowing scalpers and bots to sell tickets. These types of legislation are trying to take away an unbelievably effective tool that helps artists and sports teams and other acts get tickets directly into the hands of fans at a price they want the fan to pay.”

The HB 1825 Ticket Resale Rights Act was introduced by Virginia Delegate Dave Albo. It guarantees the rights of ticket buyers to resell their tickets on the internet ticketing platform of their choice. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law on March 3, and it will go into effect July 1.

State lawmakers in Maryland will begin hearings this week on Bill 892, which also addresses the resale or transfer of live-event tickets.

Albo said he was inspired to enact the new ticket resale law after he bought two $200 tickets to an Iron Maiden concert several months before the event. Albo was unable to attend the concert due to a family event. When he went to resell the tickets he was told that Ticketmaster would not allow him to resell or give away the tickets.

“Because it was a ticketless concert, in order to get in you would have to show your ID and the credit card that was used to make the purchase at the door,” he said.

Albo said his legislation will ensure that “once a consumer buys a ticket it becomes their property and they can do whatever they want with it and no one can put restrictions on what they can do with it.”

In Maryland, the current law states that the primary seller of tickets can put restrictions on reselling or giving away tickets. “A ticket is a license issued by a venue to attend the event, it’s not property,” said Smith. “There are terms and conditions on the back of every ticket.”

Feldman.jpgMaryland State Senator Brian Feldman

Maryland State Senator Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat, introduced Bill 892 to the Maryland Senate. Unlike the Virginia law, his bill says that if a ticket is offered with restrictions that the seller is obliged to offer a non-restricted version, which can be sold at a higher price.

“My bill says that if you purchase a ticket you own that property,” said Feldman. “Right now, there’s restriction after restriction. It’s anti-American and anti-consumer.”

Feldman’s hoping to get his bill passed in the next 30 days before the current session ends. Similar bills failed in 2015 and 2016.

Joining Ticketmaster in opposing the legislation are many Maryland venue operators.

Ron Legler, president of Hippodrome Performing Arts Center, Baltimore,
said, “Every year this bill keeps coming back. Every venue in the state is against it.”

Legler said that only 25 complaints came into the Maryland Attorney General last year and that 19 of them were for price gouging and fraud.

“This isn’t about protecting the consumer,” he said. “It’s about people who want to profit without taking any risk.” Legler also had safety concerns about the venues not knowing who is sitting in their seats. “This law will also open the door to anyone to sell tickets, including those who don’t have any policies in place for fraud.”

Bateas pointed out that StubHub doesn’t pay the ticket seller until the buyer has already attended the event.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing rights holders going down the road of restrictive measures. That can include presenting a credit card you paid with to go to an event. That’s not a great experience for the customer,” Bateas said.

“The bills allow the fan to have the reassurance that if they can’t go to an event they can easily resell their tickets, or give them away, without any restrictions,” she said. “We want people to have that flexibility.”

Audrey Schaefer, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Md., said, “What matters to us is bringing great acts to Maryland. If this passes here I’m concerned that artists who refuse to allow secondary ticketing will skip over Maryland.”

Frank Remesch, GM, Royal Farm Arena, Baltimore, agreed. “This will put us at an unfair disadvantage. There are a number of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks and Adele who will not play here if this law passes.”

“These secondary ticketers have no skin in the game, they don’t bring revenue to Maryland, and they are working very hard at manufacturing complaints where they don’t exist,” said Schaefer, who believes that capping how much a ticket can be sold for on the secondary market is the best way to go.

“Our fear with that is it will move the trade onto the street,” said Bateas. “There will always be supply and demand. If you don’t allow it on a safe site like StubHub, the consumer loses out.  People will go to off shore sites and meet people in bars and alleys where there is no protection. We believe in fair and open markets.”

Feldman said that the BOT Act, signed by President Barack Obama, solved many of the concerns Ticketmaster has about his legislation. That act gives the Federal Trade Commission the right to fine ticketbuyers who use robots to circumvent security put in place to prevent such cyber attacks.

“There’s no one who spends more money and time fighting the ticket scalpers [than we do],” said Smith. “There are a bunch of nefarious players who try to use technology to game the system and get access to tickets with the sole purpose of profiteering on the backs of everyday fans.”

“The BOT Act is only as good as enforcement,” Smith pointed out. “We’re not seeing it. We need real solutions. The BOT Act alone will not alleviate this problem.” Smith added that there is no private right of action under the BOT Act, which means Ticketmaster can’t sue under it.

“The facility takes the risk on putting on a show and they have the right to do what they want with their tickets,” he said.

Robert Lande, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who specializes in antitrust law, supports the bill and wrote written testimony for the Maryland Senate. “I’m in favor of the legislation. It helps gives choice to the consumer.”

Bateas said StubHub is monitoring other states, like Connecticut and Missouri, both of which are eyeing similar legislation. 

“We continue to work hand-in-hand with our partners to make sure we continue to do what’s best for consumers,” said Smith.

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