A bipartisan coalition of high-profile U.S. senators introduced a sweeping ticketing reform bill today that backers say would significantly improve transparency in concert and sports ticketing, better manage and enforce laws around ticket resale and ban deceptive sales tactics designed to trick consumers into overpaying for access to major events.
The Fans First Act, sponsored by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and co-sponsored by Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Peter Welch (D-VT) is the most comprehensive ticketing industry reform package ever introduced in Congress. It could lead to needed reforms long championed by consumer rights groups, advocacy groups and live music companies including both Live Nation and Ticketmaster, as well as members of the Fix The Tix coalition: the National Independent Venue Association, the Recording Academy, the National Independent Talent Organization, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Association of Performing Arts Professionals.
“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists, or venues,” Sen. Cornyn said in a statement. “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.”
The Fans First Act boasts more than a dozen reform proposals aimed at protecting consumers, including requiring sites like StubHub and Ticketmaster to disclose the full price of tickets including fees at the beginning of the sale and detail if tickets are being sold by a primary seller or a reseller.
The bill would also strengthen the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, signed into law in 2016 by President Barack Obama, which prohibits the use of automated bots to purchase tickets online. It would additionally require sellers and resellers to provide proof of purchase to consumers within 24 hours of purchase and refund consumers the full cost of their tickets when events are canceled. If passed, the bill would also commission a Government Accountability Office study to investigate the marketplace and make recommendations.
Among other provisions, the Fans First Act would also ban the sale of a ticket that the reseller claims they possess but don’t acquire until they have already secured a sale for the ticket. Known as speculative ticket sales, the practice is often the subject of complaints from consumers who later learn they significantly overpaid for tickets.
Those who violate the law could face civil penalties and be added to a reporting website for fans to file complaints about illegal ticket sales tactics that would then be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.
“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.”
Sen. Luján stated that the “current ticketing system is limiting access to live entertainment,” adding, “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.” Sen. Wicker added, “Deceptive ticketing practices have become far too common. This bipartisan effort would result in more transparency and less price gauging.”
The Fan First Act is expected to be heard by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Earlier this week, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce passed a similar bill called the Speculative Ticketing Oversight and Prohibition (STOP) Act, which is now eligible for a vote by the full House.
The STOP Act also bans speculative ticketing, and like the Fans First Act, addresses a range of deceptive ticketing practices and pricing transparency issues. Live Nation and other groups have also expressed support for the STOP Act.
Earlier today, Live Nation officials issued a statement endorsing the Fans First Act.
“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,” the statement reads.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. also came out with a statement supporting the bill on Friday. “With the introduction of the Fans First Act today, the Recording Academy applauds Senators Klobuchar, Cornyn, Blackburn, Luján, Wicker and Welch for taking this important step towards comprehensive ticketing reform,” he said. “As we work together to improve the ticket marketplace, we urge Congress to act on this bill quickly and continue its effort to protect both artists and fans by increasing transparency and limiting bad actors that take away from the joyous experience of live music.”
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