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Lawmakers Try Again to Stop Ticket Scalping

Published Thursday Mar 28, 2024

Author AnnMarie Timmins, NH Bulletin

Sal Prizio, executive director for the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, told the Bulletin last year that some resellers overcharge or offer fake tickets. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Reselling tickets to, say, a Taylor Swift show at five times the true cost would become illegal under a Senate bill that caps the asking price to face value. The legislation would also prohibit the sale of “speculative tickets” that resellers claim to have but don’t.

The legislation would apply to commercial ticket resellers like Ticketmaster, as well as people selling tickets to a Red Sox game they can’t make.

Senate Bill 328, which the Senate is expected to take up next week, has the backing of venue operators who say they are losing thousands of dollars on speculative ticket sales and increasingly contending with angry customers who arrive to find their ticket isn’t real or they’ve unknowingly paid far more than face value.

“This is really a consumer protection bill,” said co-sponsor Sen. Shannon Chandley, an Amherst Democrat. “It is not to stymie business in any way.” In fact, Chandley said, she sees it as a pro-business bill to help small venues that are being confronted by people who show up with what they think are legitimate tickets only to learn the tickets are phony. 

Free market advocates, including the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, have focused on the bill’s price cap, which would prohibit a seller from making a profit when demand has made a $100 ticket worth $200. 

“Everybody understands that the value of sitting in that particular seat for any given two-hour period is not fixed,” wrote Drew Cline, the center’s president, in a recent blog post. “It depends on who is on the stage, when, where, for how long, etc. In other words, the value depends entirely on demand. It doesn’t matter what price you print on the ticket if that price doesn’t reflect the actual demand for that seat at that time.” 

If SB 328 passes the Senate, its future in the House is uncertain.

Chandley got a similar bill through the Senate last year only to see the House first retain it and then send it to interim study. This year’s effort seeks to address the same deceptive ticket sales.

An individual or commercial ticket reseller could not charge more than the face value and associated fees and taxes, and those costs would have to be itemized. 

This could help address concerns from venue owners who say third-party sites are selling tickets at inflated prices through websites that convincingly mimic a venue’s site.

Peter Ramsey, president and chief executive officer of Palace Theatres in Manchester, told the Bulletin last year that a woman had bought tickets to see “Newsies,” a kids show, through a third-party website she believed to be the Palace’s. She paid $60 a ticket when the Palace still had tickets for $15 and less. 

The bill would save a buyer from paying higher costs, but it would not prevent the existence of websites made to look like a venue’s site. 

A reseller would have to provide the venue or entity that issued a ticket the buyer’s name so the venue could notify the person if the show had been canceled or rescheduled. There appears to be no mechanism in the bill to require the venue to make those notifications.

Resellers could not sell tickets they claimed to have in hand but didn’t. And any tickets that are resold would have to include the seat number and zone or section of the ticket for shows with assigned seating. 

Venue owners have said tickets that look real, right down to showing the assigned seat, are the challenge. This was such a problem during ticket sales for the Swift shows that a trio of Swifties created a Twitter page to help real ticket holders resell their tickets at face value, after confirming the tickets were legitimate. 

The bill has limits. 

It would not address the tickets purchased with stolen credit cards and then resold to unsuspecting buyers. 

Sal Prizio, executive director of the Capitol Center for the Arts, told the Bulletin last year that that type of scam cost his venue $13,000 because the credit card companies refunded the people whose stolen credit cards were used to buy the tickets and demanded Prizio’s venue refund them. The venue also had to cancel the tickets, meaning the unsuspecting ticket holders arrived and learned they no longer had a seat.

The Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau Attorney within the Attorney General’s Office would oversee enforcement. 

This story is courtesy of NH Bulletin under creative commons license. No changes have been made to the article. 

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