Guest Commentary

Gary Adler: Missouri bill would fight bullies in event ticketing

HB 255 is commonsense, reasonable legislation about selling tickets. It should not take an act of law, but sometimes this is precisely what is needed to stop a bully.
HB 255 is commonsense, reasonable legislation about selling tickets. It should not take an act of law, but sometimes this is precisely what is needed to stop a bully. AP

As a statehouse bill about the transferability of live event tickets is under debate, it has been argued that live event tickets should be treated like airline tickets. What do airline tickets and tickets to concerts, sporting events or live theater have in common? Very little.

However, some in the powerful ticketing industry, namely Ticketmaster, want to impose — or already do impose — some of the frustration of air travel onto sporting events and concerts.

When you buy an airline ticket, you are stuck with it even if your plans change for very legitimate reasons. Today, if you purchase tickets to a game or concert, you can usually transfer or resell that ticket. You bought and paid for the tickets, so what you do after is reasonably none of the original sellers’ business. However, Ticketmaster wants to block the ability to transfer, or at least corral your resale into its walled garden (its secondary resale site, which posted a record $1 billion profit last year) where you pay more fees and, often, where other strings are attached.

In the Missouri statehouse, legislators are considering a bill that would ensure concertgoers and sports fans have options to transfer or sell tickets should they find themselves unable to attend an event. It is commonsense, reasonable legislation. It should not take an act of law, but sometimes this is precisely what is needed to stop a bully.

How exactly does a ticket bully act?

First, by restricting transferability. Some in the primary market (teams, venues, artists or Ticketmaster) use restricted paperless tickets that require the credit card holder who purchased them to show the card and ID at the door of the event. This means that only the original purchaser can use the tickets, essentially eliminating the ability for tickets to be transferred (shared, gifted or sold).

Second, through penalties like ticket cancellations. Often, primary market issuers cancel the purchased tickets of those they believe are reselling tickets, to have even more control over the primary and secondary ticket markets. Meanwhile, resale does not harm the original seller in any way since the ticketholder has already paid full price plus all applicable fees and taxes.

Third, by enforcing resale platform exclusivity. Some ticket issuers and venues require ticket-buyers to use a single designated resale ticket platform that may require minimum resale prices regardless of actual market value or additional fees.

By simple comparison, after you purchase a car, the dealership cannot control how you resell that car or for what price. If dealerships did that, it would not take long for lawmakers to intervene to protect consumers and the market.

We applaud Rep. Shawn Rhoads and Sen. Caleb Rowden for introducing legislation (HB 255 and SB292) that would make it illegal for companies to provide tickets solely through a delivery method that prevents customers from reselling them on a ticketing platform of their choice. This legislation would also prohibit ticket companies from penalizing, discriminating against or denying admission to an event within Missouri to any ticket purchaser on the basis that they resold a ticket or purchased a resold ticket.

This bill is essential to protecting Missouri consumers’ right to sell or transfer their purchased tickets to live events if they wish, and on their own terms. As such the House and Senate should pass this bill swiftly.

Gary Adler is executive director and counsel of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, which represents ticket brokers.

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