Congress opens investigation addressing 'potentially unfair and deceptive' ticket practices

Phoenix Suns' tickets and an NBA basketball against Miami Heat during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
Congress has asked six top ticket companies for information to help protect consumers. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

Congress launched an investigation into the live event ticketing industry on Thursday, addressing concerns such as expensive hidden fees that take advantage of customers.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce released on its website the news and letters, which were written to the six top ticket and event companies.

“The Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over consumer protection issues, is concerned about potentially unfair and deceptive practices occurring in the primary and secondary ticket marketplace, many of which have been documented in consumer complaints, press stories, and government reports,” the Committee leaders wrote in the release.

Six members of the committee — three Democrats and three Republicans — signed individual letters to Live Nation, AEG, StubHub, Vivid Seats, TicketNetwork and asking for information regarding practices that “lack transparency and fairness.” The document includes questions about ticket prices, revenue from 2016-18, when fees are made public, all of the platforms operated by the company and protocols in place to protect consumers.

The committee asked that the companies schedule briefings by Dec. 12.

The letters cite three main issues with current ticketing practices.

High, hidden fees at end of purchase

Consumers are faced with high, hidden fees by primary tickets sellers and resellers that pop up at the end of the purchase and prevents buyers from comparing prices. The committee said it found the fees average 27 percent of the ticket’s value on the primary market and 31 on secondary.

Speculative tickets harm unknowing customers

Brokers will put tickets on a secondary ticket exchange — such as TicketMaster — before he/she actually possesses the ticket. This happens without the knowledge of a consumer at that secondary website. The committee writes some people don’t receive their ticket, or the exact seat they paid for, and refunds don’t cover other debts incurred, such as travel to a game.

White-label websites trick customers

White-label websites appear as legitimate websites, typically of events or arenas, and lead consumers to believe it is the actual website of that place. Consumers would then believe they’re using an official ticketing venue, when they are not, and the committee found these websites typically have “substantially higher prices and fees.”

The committee has introduced and passed legislation over the years to protect consumers, but it writes that “consumers still face a host of troubling practices and trends in the ticketing industry.”

[H/T The Los Angeles Times]

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