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Tennessee Bill Supported by Ticketmaster Would Extend Monopoly Power, Take Ticket Ownership from Fans

03/27/2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Legislation supported by Ticketmaster, which already controls with its partners the vast majority of ticket sales in Tennessee, will further tighten its grip on the ticket market, specifically the resale market, while stripping ticket-buyers of their property rights.

The latest measures go so far as to declare that ticket issuers can take away consumers’ tickets “at any time, with or without cause,” and without refunds being provided. Moreover, it empowers Ticketmaster and its partners with control over all that consumers do with tickets they have purchased, including the right to give them to charity, share them with friends or resell them.

Dubbed the “Fairness in Ticketing Act of 2012,” the bill includes several provisions that significantly benefit Ticketmaster, its parent LiveNation and its affiliates TicketsNow and TicketExchange.

“We agree with the bill sponsors that consumers deserve protection from deceptive ticket practices,” said Jon Potter, president of Fan Freedom Project. “But this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and is a blatant attempt by Ticketmaster, concert producers and teams to monopolize the ticket resale market. To disguise it as pro-consumer legislation backed by hometown country music stars underestimates the intelligence of consumers and legislators in Tennessee.”

The legislation authorizes venues and promoters to utilize any ticketing methods they see fit, “whether existing now or in the future,” including restrictive, nontransferable paperless tickets.

However, restrictive, nontransferable tickets take away customers’ ability to sell or give away tickets, even as a gift. And if the tickets are transferable, once this law is passed they likely will require the use of Ticketmaster’s own secondary resale sites – TicketsNow or TicketExchange – allowing for total control of both the primary and secondary markets, and leaving consumers with only one option for purchasing and reselling tickets.

Elizabeth Owen, former director of the Consumer Affairs Division of Tennessee, sees major flaws in the amendment. “There are several provisions in this bill that are flatly anti-consumer, and which guarantee too much power to Ticketmaster and event producers, without requiring that they treat consumers with fairness, justice or common sense,” Owen said. Owen is a consultant to Fan Freedom Project, a consumer organization that is opposing the bill.

Also included in the amendment are provisions pertaining to transparency on the secondary ticketing market, as ticket resellers would have to list the face-value price, the asking price and the seller’s name. However, Ticketmaster and other primary ticket issuers would be exempt from these policies.

The swift last-minute introduction of the measure has also drawn fire. The amendment was first introduced March 23, with Senate and House hearings scheduled for this Tuesday and Wednesday (March 27 and 28) – a short turnaround time that critics say is an attempt by Ticketmaster to sneak legislation through with the session winding down.

“This legislation is a Ticketmaster-monopoly-expansion bill. This is not about protecting fans,” Potter said.

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