Lawmakers call for more transparency for online ticket sales of concerts, sporting events

Lawmakers call for more transparency for online ticket sales of concerts, sporting events
Tickets to a show / event in a hand with a black background. (GlaserStudios)

Lawmakers said people are getting stuck with too many hidden fees when buying tickets online for concerts and sporting events.

A House subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday to discuss the lack of transparency from companies who sell online live event tickets.

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"Websites often fail to display or disclose all the fees upfront so that the total cost of the ticket can be known at checkout," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-New Jersey) said.

Lawmakers are calling for all-in pricing, meaning the total cost of the ticket is clear when a person looks up prices.

"Ticketmaster bans speculative ticketing on our platform," President and Chief Operating Officer of Ticketmaster Amy Howe said. "We combat bots and we support all-in pricing."

"For all-in pricing to work, we believe there needs to be clear guidelines, clear requirements as well as universal and consistent enforcement," Vice President and General Counsel for StubHub Stephanie Burns said.

We spoke with one customer who said she tries to buy tickets in person at a ticket counter because of the unclear costs online.

"Usually when I buy online, it's very expensive," consumer Jenny Bhaktiar said. "I spent like $300 just to buy three tickets online because it was like OK this service fee, taxes."

The hearing also looked into the growing problem of bots which are people or automated systems that scoop up a lot of tickets to gouge customers later.

"Since 2018, Ticketmaster has blocked over 30 billion bot purchase events," Howe said.

Lawmakers are also looking into restrictions on reselling tickets.

It was clear there's disagreement within the industry about resales.

Burns said StubHub doesn't agree with the argument that restrictions cut back on fraud.

"We believe that's a smoke screen because if you look at the incidents of fraud, it's actually quite low in the ticketing industry especially as we move toward mobile ticketing," Burns said. "So the issue here is using technology to hold consumers captive when they purchase a ticket so that if they want to resell that ticket, they're forced to do that through the platform or the mobile system of the primary issuer."

"If you believe that five million fraudulent tickets a year is low, we would disagree with that," Howe said.

Congress is looking at legislation that calls for more oversight.

The Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act of 2019 would require all-in pricing and it would ban sellers from being able to stop customers from re-selling tickets.