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New York Attorney General to publish ticket touting report, promises crackdown

By | Published on Thursday 28 January 2016

Ticket Tout

With secondary ticketing a top talking point once again in UK music circles this last year, a new report due out later today from New York Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman is likely to put the pesky touts fully back on the agenda in the US as well. Though they’ll do that thing where they insist on calling the touts ‘scalpers’. You crazy Americans, you. You’ll be making Donald Trump your president next.

The resale of tickets by touts or scalpers online has been a hot topic at various points since the rise of internet auction sites and the emergence of standalone platforms for ticket reselling. At various points there has been a rally call to ban, restrict or regulate the resale websites, though usually those calls ultimately fade away and the touts get on with the reselling of tickets for in-demand events at considerable mark ups.

As much previously noted, while the live industry was initially against the rise in ticket touting allowed by the web, some artists and promoters have since embraced the secondary market, either reselling tickets for their owns shows or forming official partnerships with specific resale sites. Meanwhile the biggest live music company, Live Nation, is very much in the secondary ticketing game, owning various resale site operations via its Ticketmaster subsidiary.

Plenty of critics remain in the music community. In the UK, the whole debate has become loud again in the last year or so, mainly after two MPs successfully snuck a little bit of regulation of the secondary ticketing market into the UK’s new Consumer Rights Bill, and in doing so also forced the government to review the whole touting business anew.

That review is now underway, and many artists have stepped forward to express distain for the touts who buy up tickets to their shows – sometimes using so called ‘bots’ to grab a load of tickets early on – and then sell them at a massive mark up.

Schneiderman’s report on secondary ticketing in New York – which is called ‘Why Can’t New Yorkers Get Tickets’ – is based on a three year investigation, and could result in a new crackdown against online touting.

The regulation of ticket reselling in the US generally sits at a state-level. Rules in New York were actually relaxed in the early days of online touting, though the use of those bots to buy up large numbers of tickets is still banned there, and much of the new report – and possibly any resulting crackdown – is focused on the continued illegal use of such technology.

According to the New York Times, the new report will also include various touting claims, including that as many as half the seats for many popular concerts are not offered to the general public, that a single high-tech tout bought more than 1000 tickets to a U2 concert in a single minute, and that free tickets that had been distributed for an appearance by Pope Francis in the city were resold for thousands of dollars on the secondary market.

The Times also quotes the Attorney General as saying: “Ticketing is a fixed game. My office will continue to crackdown on those who break our laws, prey on ordinary consumers and deny New Yorkers affordable access to the concerts and sporting events they love. This investigation is just the beginning of our efforts to create a level playing field in the ticket industry”.

Other recommendations in the report will include demands that promoters are more transparent about how tickets are being released to the public, and that secondary sites police their systems more thoroughly, ensuring touting rules specific to New York are complied with when reselling tickets in the state.

Schneiderman is also set to suggest that restrictions on so called ‘paperless ticketing’ should be removed from the state’s laws. Although the locking of tickets to credit cards or smartphones is seen as one way of limiting touting, such approaches have caused their own consumer rights problems, with New York state in particular restricting such practices. But it seems the AG sees paperless ticketing as the lesser of two evils.

It remains to be seen how the operators of secondary ticketing websites respond to Schneiderman’s report. They always argue that by keeping touting on their sites, consumers actually get more protection. Meanwhile, most of the resale site companies support laws against the touting bots, so will be pleased that’s a central issue in the report, while Live Nation’s Ticketmaster – as a provider of paperless ticketing solutions – will like the removal of those regulations in New York.