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Senators Introduce ‘Fans First’ Bill Intended to Reform Live-Event Ticketing System

U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Peter Welch (D-VT) have introduced the Fans First Act, which would help “address flaws in the current live event ticketing system by increasing transparency in ticket sales, protecting consumers from fake or dramatically overpriced tickets, and holding bad actors who engage in illegal ticket sale practices accountable,” according to the announcement.

The act is the latest initiative by the senators, who have led Congress’ efforts to combat high and exploitative ticket pricing for concerts and other live-entertainment events. Since the ticketing system moved online over the past dozen years, it has become ripe for abuse, with scalpers and bots quickly acquiring thousands of tickets and reselling them for astronomical prices, leaving fans little choice but to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars above the list price in order to attend concerts. The situation became exceptionally heated in 2022 when Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift tour tickets went on sale and prices almost immediately soared to thousands of dollars. While Ticketmaster — by far the dominant ticket retailer — and other outlets have made many efforts to control the situation, their efforts have been only partially successful.

The move follows a similar action approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee: a series of long-in-the-works ticketing reforms centered around pricing transparency and speculative selling.

The Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing (TICKET) Act will require primary and secondary sellers like Live Nation’s Ticketmaster, SeatGeek and StubHub to disclose the full ticket price, including fees, at the start of a transaction, prior to seat selection. Secondary sellers will also be forbidden from transacting tickets they do not actually possess.

According to the Senators’ announcement, the Fair Fans act would help address the following areas in the current ticketing system:

Ticket Sales Transparency:

Requires 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 to avoid ticket misrepresentation;
and whether or not they are the original seller. 

Consumer Protection:

Strengthens the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, signed into law in 2016, to further prohibit the use of bots to purchase tickets online.
Requires sellers and resellers to provide proof of purchase to consumers within 24 hours of purchase.
Requires sellers and resellers to refund consumers the full cost of the ticket when events are canceled.
Requires a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to further study the marketplace and make recommendations.

Stopping Bad Actors:

Imposes civil penalties on resellers engaging in illegal ticket sale practices, creates a reporting website for fans to file complaints, and tasks the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general with enforcement.
Prohibits the sale of a ticket that the reseller represents they possess but actually do not, known as a speculative or “spec” ticket.
Prevents the use of deceptive websites and bad actors masquerading as legitimate sellers.
Requires reporting of BOTS Act violations from ticketing companies to the FTC and requires the FBI to share ticketing violations with them.

According to the announcement, the legislation is endorsed by the Fix the Tix Coalition, National Independent Venue Association, Seattle Theatre Group, Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America, National Independent Talent Organization, Eventbrite, Performing Arts Alliance, North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents, International Association of Venue Managers, Songwriters of North America, Americans for the Arts, Americans for the Arts Action Fund, Future of Music Coalition, Artists Rights Alliance, Music Managers Forum, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and Association of Performing Arts Professionals. 

About the act, Cornyn said: “The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists, or venues. 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.”  

Klobuchar added, “Buying a ticket to see your favorite artist or team is out of reach for too many Americans. Bots, hidden fees, and predatory practices are hurting consumers whether they want to catch a home game, an up-and-coming artist or a major headliner like Taylor Swift or Bad Bunny. From ensuring fans get refunds for canceled shows to banning speculative ticket sales, this bipartisan legislation will improve the ticketing experience.”

Ticketmaster owner Live Nation was quick to applaud the move, saying in a statement: “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.”

“Fans have become increasingly frustrated with how difficult it has been to obtain affordable tickets to see their favorite artists perform,” said Sen. Blackburn. “Bots are snatching up tickets and selling them for exorbitant prices on secondary markets, while some ticketing companies are selling speculative event tickets that don’t even exist. This bipartisan legislation builds upon my work to safeguard artists and their fans in the online ticket marketplace.”

“Live entertainment serves as a form of enjoyment and community for concert-goers and sports fans everywhere. However, the current ticketing system is limiting access to live entertainment, eroding consumer trust, and hurting fans and local venues,” said Sen. Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Fans First Act to ensure the sale of tickets is accessible to all consumers. This bill builds upon my work to improve ticket sale transparency by strengthening the FTC to enforce consumer protections. This is one step forward in making live entertainment accessible for all to enjoy.”

“Deceptive ticketing practices have become far too common. This bipartisan effort would result in more transparency and less price gauging,” said Sen. Wicker. “The pro-consumer legislation would benefit fans of sports, music, theatre, or any other kind of live entertainment.”

“Live concerts and sporting events are beloved American pastimes and pay dividends to our local economy. It’s important that every ticketholder can access these events without fear of exploitation by scammers,” said Sen. Welch. “The Fans First Act will help protect American consumers from the financial harms of price gouging by banning speculative tickets and deceptive URLs, in addition to requiring all-in pricing be listed up front. This legislation will strengthen consumer protection by establishing refund requirements for customers impacted by fraud, helping to ensure that everyone can enjoy live events without worrying about the security of their ticket.”

Source: Variety