New Senate invoice would push ticket sellers to reveal charges upfront

WASHINGTON — Swifties, the BeyHive and Cure fans may have a reason to rejoice: Senators on Wednesday are set to introduce a bipartisan bill targeting hidden ticket fees for live events.

Dubbed the Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing (TICKET) Act, the measure would require ticketing merchants to disclose upfront full ticket prices, including fees, for concerts, sporting events and other large gatherings.

The new bill follows the reintroduction of the Junk Fee Prevention Act in the House earlier this month by Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Jeff Jackson, DN.C., and Biden administration moves to push fee transparency.

It also comes as lawmakers wage a broader battle against ticket sellers. After an investigation prompted by a December lawsuit against Live Nation, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced legislation on Wednesday that would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to prevent the use of exclusive multi-year contracts among ticket vendors.

Taylor Swift fans south Live Nation after its Ticketmaster site crashed during presales for the artist’s “The Eras Tour.” The fiasco prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine the entertainment conglomerate’s power over the industry in a January hearing. At the time some critics on Capitol Hill called Live Nation a monopoly.

Ticketmaster also pledged to return some money to fans who purchased tickets to goth rock band The Cure’s “Shows Of A Lost World Tour” earlier this year, after group leader Robert Smith slammed the prices. The ticket vendor offered up to $10 refunded to verified fan accounts after agreeing with the band that many of the fees charged during transactions were “unduly high,” Smith tweeted on March 16.

The new bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the chamber’s Commerce Committee chair, and ranking member Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“The price they say should be the price you pay. This bill is one part of comprehensive legislation I plan to introduce to rein in deceptive junk fees driving up costs for consumers,” Cantwell said in a statement.

In his statement, Cruz said, “The TICKET Act brings transparency to the whole ticketing industry, which is dominated by a few large players that can capitalize on these hidden fees.”

“When consumers have information, they can exercise informed choice and get the products and goods and services they want,” Cruz told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.

Ticket fees can comprise 21% to as much as 58% of the total cost of tickets, according to a statement from the committee. The bill aims to promote competition “by delivering ticket fee and speculative ticket transparency for the benefit of all consumers,” the committee said.

If the measure passes, primary and secondary market ticket sellers — such as Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster and SeatGeek — would be required to disclose the entire ticket price, including itemized fees, at the beginning of a transaction and prior to ticket selection. Total ticket prices must also be clearly displayed during event marketing.

Secondary market sellers would be obligated to fully disclose speculative ticket status, meaning that the seller does not have actual possession of the ticket.

President Joe Biden emphasized the administration’s effort to crack down on junk fees during his State of the Union address in February. In addition to other areas, he called for action on excessive fees for concerts, sporting events and other forms of entertainment. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., introduced the Senate companion bill to Biden’s plan in March.

In tandem with the administration’s goals, the FTC also released a rule-making proceeding on Nov. 8, 2022 — the day of the midterm elections — to probe unfair acts or practices related to ticketing and other various fees.

Ticketmaster has said it does not control fees but does retain a portion for operating costs, according to a Feb. 7 blog post. The vendor also said it already supports “all-in” pricing in New York state, and advocates for nationwide adoption of the policy.

“We continue to advocate for an industry wide mandate of upfront pricing, so fans see the full face value and fee cost upfront. This only works if all ticketing marketplaces go all-in together so that consumers truly have accurate comparisons as they shop for tickets ,” Ticketmaster said in the blog post.

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