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‘Taylor Swift Act’ and other legislation aims to protect fans from fake ticket sales

The Taylor Swift concert ticket debacle two years ago is leading state and federal lawmakers to take aim at sales practices that they say are deceptive or predatory to music fans.

A main goal of venues and musicians is to outlaw speculative sales when a seller offers a ticket they do not yet have. In some cases, they ask thousands of dollars for a ticket that they can buy later from the primary seller for $200 or less and reap the profit.

In Maryland, a new law will make speculative ticket sales illegal starting July 1.

“This is a huge first step,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for I.M.P., the company that operates Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and other venues that often receive complaints if consumers pay high prices or fail to receive promised tickets.

Arizona recently cleared similar legislation and nicknamed the measure the “Taylor Swift Act.” When fans were unable to snag Eras Tour tickets through Ticketmaster, many paid thousands to buy them through resellers, also known as secondary sellers, or were tricked by sites selling fake tickets.

Swift has not commented on the ticketing proposals, and a representative for the singer did not respond to a request for comment.

Nationwide, bills have been introduced in two dozen states to address event ticketing practices, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Illinois, a ban on speculative tickets has passed the state Senate. The Colorado House has cleared legislation to require more pricing transparency and a ban on websites designed to mimic legitimate ticket sales sites, which may trick consumers into thinking they are buying directly from a venue.

At the same time, venues and the world’s biggest musicians are pushing for federal reforms.

Companies including Ticketmaster and SeatGeek committed to greater transparency, known as “all-in” or “upfront” pricing of a ticket’s cost with fees from the beginning, at a White House event last summer with President Joe Biden, part of his effort to crack down on what he called “junk fees” imposed by ticket companies, banks, airlines and others.

“There’s more to do to address the problem of online ticketing,” Biden said at the time.

Artists back federal bill

On Thursday, 250 artists including Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, Green Day and Fall Out Boy voiced support for the Fans First Act, a bill pending in the U.S. Senate. No votes on the measure have been scheduled.

The legislation would prevent speculative ticket sales when a seller does not have a ticket. It also would require “all-in” pricing, outlaw deceptive websites and strengthen enforcement of penalties for bot usage to scoop up tickets.

“We are joining together to say that the current system is broken,” the artists said in a letter to congressional sponsors of the legislation. “Predatory resellers and secondary platforms engage in deceptive ticketing practices to inflate ticket prices and deprive fans of the chance to see their favorite artists at a fair price.”

So-called spec tickets often are advertised with warnings such as “only 4 left!,” falsely suggesting to consumers that they should buy immediately or miss out. In some cases, actual tickets never turn up or brokers send fraudulent tickets.

Ticket-selling platforms said they supported some of the proposed legislative changes.

Ticketmaster, a unit of Live Nation Entertainment that sells primary and secondary tickets, said it backed bans on speculative sales and deceptive websites, as well as better enforcement of anti-bot legislation.

StubHub “does not allow the sale of speculative tickets, and sellers found to be in breach of our seller policy face consequences such as fines and removal from the platform,” a company spokesperson said. If a buyer has an issue, “StubHub will find an equivalent or better ticket to get a buyer into an event, or provide a full refund.”

The company said it supports U.S. House and Senate versions of a bill called the Ticket Act. The House version would outlaw speculative ticketing, among other practices, while the Senate measure calls for all-in pricing.

Venues and artist groups have formed a coalition called Fix the Tix, led by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), that is pushing for passage of the Fans First Act, which they say offers the strongest protections for ticket buyers.

Stephen Parker, executive director of NIVA, said that bill is “the most fan- and artist-friendly ticketing legislation that Congress has ever introduced.”

“It makes illegal the abusive, predatory behaviour from predatory resale platforms and ticket brokers,” he said, and also calls for a national evaluation of the ticket resale market.

—Lisa Richwine, Reuters

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