George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

House Mus⁠t⁠ Qu⁠i⁠ckly Pass TICKET Ac⁠t⁠

By: Sal Nuzzo / 2024

Sal Nuzzo

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT

George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

2024

Watching Taylor Swift hug her beau as he celebrated his team winning the Super Bowl, I had a bit of nostalgia. It was right around this time last year that I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing focused on promoting competition and protecting consumers in the live event and ticketing industries — mainly due to the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster crash.

My testimony focused on the fact that there is one dominant player in the industry that uses its power to implement a litany of added hidden fees, compel exclusive ticketing deals with venues that want touring artists to play their stages, and foreclose competition from other ticketing companies. 

It was a productive hearing, and many promises were made by senators about reeling in the behemoth and repairing the many flaws in a system that thrives off the passion of fans. The promises were kept, in some ways, but not without the usual ability in Washington to never let a crisis go to waste.

Several bills have since been introduced in Congress and, by the end of year, two advanced out of their committees of jurisdiction and serve as the marker where lawmakers pick up in 2024. A late-entry piece of legislation in the Senate emerged before the holidays, with the backing of industry. If passed, these bills could add a partial but healthy dose of transparency into the market with regard to junk fees by requiring upfront, all-in pricing. 

They will also ban deceptive marketing of ticketing websites so that consumers aren’t tricked into believing they are buying directly from the team, music artist, or venue if they are not. While none of these bills hold the promise of comprehensive reform or do anything meaningful to shake the system free of monopolistic control, they are worthy of consideration for the strides they take.

The House TICKET Act passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee on December 15 with a bipartisan 45-0 vote. That’s impressive for a chamber often caught in partisan gridlock. 

The bill includes a handful of common-sense protections, such as requiring ticket sellers to disclose all fees upfront to help consumers make more informed purchase decisions. It will also ban deceptive, undisclosed speculative tickets where fans are purchasing the promise of a ticket when the seller doesn’t actually have the tickets at the time of their offering. 

In the interest of transparency, such sales would be banned though fans will fortunately still have access to ticket procurement services that enable them to avoid the disarray of Ticketmaster’s frenetic on-sales, which have seen tech issues, cancelations and excruciating wait times. 

With these “pay now, procure and deliver later” services, fans can easily find a price that suits them along with a money-back guarantee. Finally, the legislation includes refund guarantees if an event is canceled. The James Madison Institute expressed its support of the bipartisan House TICKET Act, which deserves a vote in the full House quickly.

In the Senate, several bills were introduced and one passed by the Commerce Committee, also named the TICKET Act, though the Senate’s version is limited to price transparency and requiring that fees can no longer be hidden until late in the check-out process. 

The Fans First Act, a late 2023 entry to the legislative field, was introduced in December by senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, though it is unclear whether the Senate Commerce Committee will have time to consider it since the committee already moved ticketing legislation last year. 

Like the House TICKET Act, it includes some similar worthwhile provisions, though it also features some clever and anticompetitive additions from industry, including a mechanism where Ticketmaster’s competitors would be required to hand over troves of their own customers’ data (name, address, email, etc.) to the ticketing giant. Surely, it came as no surprise to the senators who led the battle cry against Ticketmaster at last year’s hearing when the company immediately and emphatically announced its support of the Senate version of this legislation.

I am sure many companies would like the United States Senate to force their competitors to hand over their customer lists, but that’s not how laws should work.

Rather than waiting for the Senate to move on an imperfect bill that requires more time and fixing, the House should vote on the bipartisan TICKET Act, which enjoys no opposition. In the spirit of its own attempts at legislating something similar, the Senate should mirror or adopt the House TICKET Act, save a lot of time and angst before Washington comes grinding to its election-year halt, and pass a law that will benefit consumers.

Originally found in DC Journal.