The New York Times
By Ben Sisario
The United States Senate introduced a long-awaited bill on Friday promising consumer protections for tickets to live entertainment events, after more than a year of complaints about high fees, out-of-control prices and deceptive selling practices in the entertainment world.
The bill, called the Fans First Act, would require sellers to disclose the full price of a ticket, including all fees; indicate what seat or section a customer is gaining access to; and say whether a ticket is being offered by its original or “primary” seller, as opposed to a reseller or broker.
The bill, introduced by John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, along with four others, would also strengthen an existing law banning the use of computer bots, a tactic frequently used by scalpers; require ticket sellers to offer full refunds when an event is canceled; set thousands of dollars in penalties for abuse; and require the Government Accountability Office to study the ticketing market and make recommendations.
The proposed law comes as ticketing has become a hot-button issue for voters and lawmakers, with prices at record highs and the selling practices of both primary ticketing companies — like Ticketmaster, which tends to represent artists and venue box offices — and resale marketplaces like StubHub and Vivid Seats having come under fire.
At a Judiciary Committee hearing in January, two months after Ticketmaster’s system crashed during a Taylor Swift presale, senators from both parties pilloried an executive from Live Nation — which owns Ticketmaster — and called the company a monopoly that harms consumers. Separately, the Justice Department has been conducting an antitrust investigation of Live Nation.
At his State of the Union address in February, President Biden said, “We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events and make companies disclose all the fees upfront.” And in June, under pressure from the White House, ticket sellers including Ticketmaster and SeatGeek agreed to introduce “all-in pricing” for tickets.
That scrutiny has developed as the concert industry had its biggest year ever, with the trade publication Pollstar saying that gross ticket sales for the Top 100 worldwide tours were $9.17 billion in 2023, up 46 percent from the year before, and 65 percent from 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the industry.
The new Senate bill proposes steep civil penalties for violations, to be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general. According to the bill, those penalties could include $15,000 per day during which a violation occurs, along with $1,000 per event ticket advertised or sold; those fines could amount to as much as five times the listed cost of a ticket.
“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists or venues,” Mr. Cornyn said in a statement. “This legislation would rebuild trust in the ticketing system by cracking down on bots and others who take advantage of consumers through price gouging and other predatory practices and increase price transparency for ticket purchasers.”
Ms. Klobuchar added, “From ensuring fans get refunds for canceled shows to banning speculative ticket sales, this bipartisan legislation will improve the ticketing experience.”
In addition to Mr. Cornyn and Ms. Klobuchar, the cosponsors of the bill include two additional Republicans (Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Roger Wicker of Mississippi) and two Democrats (Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Peter Welch of Vermont).
The new bill joins a number of other proposed laws in both houses of Congress, which would need to be reconciled for any to become law. In July, the Ticket Act, requiring the upfront disclosure of the full price of a ticket, passed the Commerce Committee. In the House of Representatives this week, another bill calling for transparency in ticket prices passed the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The new Senate bill has been in negotiations for months, and some activists have privately complained about its compromises. The bill bans “speculative” selling, in which resale brokers list tickets for sale without actually having them in hand, betting that they can fulfill the order later. But it still allows “concierge” services in which brokers charge fans to wait in a digital line for them, a process that consumer advocates say puts ordinary customers at a disadvantage.
Still, the bill has broad support throughout the music industry, including from venue and artist groups; the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards; and Fix the Tix, a coalition of many talent and industry groups.
Live Nation, which has called for government action to reform the ticket market, also said it supports the bill, saying, “We believe it’s critical Congress acts to protect fans and artists from predatory resale practices, and have long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites, as well as other measures.”