Six US senators have introduced a new “Fans First Act” to address flaws in the live event ticketing system by increasing transparency in ticket sales, protecting consumers from fake or overpriced tickets, and building accountability measures for bad actors.
The bipartisan bill, brought to Congress by three Republicans (John Cornyn of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi) and three Democrats (Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Peter Welch of Vermont and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico), is the latest effort by Congress to combat high and exploitative ticket pricing for concerts and other live events.
The heated situation with online ticket sellers – predominantly by Ticketmaster, by far the largest of retailers – reached a boiling point in 2022, when demand for tickets to see Taylor Swift’s and Bruce Springsteen’s tours, respectively, crashed the site and sent prices soaring.
Several Swift fans went on to sue Ticketmaster for “fraud, price-fixing and antitrust violations”, alleging that “intentional deception” allowed scalpers to buy the majority of tickets, to be resold at a mark-up; within hours of the Eras tour sale, tickets were being resold on secondary seller sites for as much as $22,000 (£18,000).
“Because no other venue can hold half as many people as the stadiums and venues working through Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift and other popular musicians have no choice but to work through Ticketmaster,” the suit alleged. The controversy led to congressional hearings with Ticketmaster executives. Though started before the Swift debacle, the US justice department launched an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, over whether it abused its power in the multibillion-dollar live entertainment industry.
According to an announcement signed by the six senators, the Fans First Act seeks to improve pricing transparency by requiring all live event ticket sellers and resellers to disclose the total cost of the ticket, including fees, when the fan initially selects a ticket for purchase; a breakdown of the ticket cost; clear terms and conditions of purchase; which seat or section they are selling in order to avoid ticket misrepresentation; and whether or not they are the original seller.
The act would also strengthen the Better Online Ticket Sales (Bots) Act, signed into law in 2016, to further prohibit the use of bots to purchase tickets online, and would impose civil penalties on resellers engaging in illegal ticket sale practices. The bill would create a reporting website for fans to file complaints, to be enforced and monitored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general. And it seeks to stop bad actors by prohibiting the sale of “spec” tickets which resellers do not yet possess, prevents the use of deceptive websites and bad actors masquerading as legitimate sellers, and requires reporting of Bots Act violations from ticketing companies to the FTC.
“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists or venues,” said Cornyn in the announcement. “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.”
Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, applauded the new bill: “We support the Fans First Act and welcome legislation that brings positive reform to live event ticketing. 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. We look forward to our continued work with policymakers to advocate for even stronger reforms and enforcement.”