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Virginia lawmakers seek to limit anti-touting measures in the state

By | Published on Tuesday 28 February 2017

Ticket touts

While lawmakers in various countries look into new ways to regulate all the ticket touting facilitated by the increasingly dominant secondary ticketing platforms, those mavericks in the state legislature of Virginia are basically attempting the opposite.

Last week the state’s House Of Delegates passed the Ticket Resale Rights Act, which prohibits concert promoters from denying someone admission to an event because they have bought their ticket from a tout. The new law also seeks to stop the use of ticketing methods designed to limit touting, such as locking a ticket to the credit card used to buy it.

Defenders of the secondary ticketing market have, in the past, argued that a ticket is simply a product and people should be allowed to buy and resell products if they so wish. But those who oppose touting often counter that, actually, a ticket is a contract between the promoter and the original buyer, and that contract usually includes a term that says the agreement is non-transferrable. Therefore the ticket becomes void if the buyer attempts a transfer, because they are in breach of contract.

This is how promoters can cancel tickets that they know to have been resold on the secondary market. However, under the Ticket Resale Rights Act promoters in Virginia wouldn’t be allowed to cancel a touted ticket in that way, whatever the terms and conditions of the ticket may say. Doing so could result in a fine of up to $5000.

The locking of tickets to credit cards – one tactic for trying to restrict touting – has been criticised by some politicians and consumer rights groups before, not because it seeks to limit touting, but because it creates problems for consumers if the credit card holder who bought the tickets can’t actually attend the show on the night, or indeed if they bought the tickets for someone else and never intended to be there in person.

The Virginian delegate behind the Ticket Resale Rights Act, Dave Albo, has generally defended his new law on consumer rights grounds of this kind, rather than seeking to defend the rights of industrial-level touts to resell tickets on the free market. Though the measures have been criticised by many in the live community because they also limit the tactics artists and promoters can use to try and stop the industrial touts from buying up tickets to their shows.

Somewhat ironically – given that Live Nation’s Ticketmaster has been criticised by many in the artist community over its secondary ticketing services – it is efforts by Ticketmaster’s primary ticketing business to restrict the resale of tickets that have come under particular fire by supporters of Albo’s new law.

Those supporters include the US lobbying group NetChoice, which counts StubHub owner eBay as a member. Its Executive Director Steve DelBianco wrote in a recent op-ed piece for the Washington Post that: “Virginians deserve to have safe and easy ways to buy, sell and give away their sports and concert tickets. Yet, Ticketmaster is focused on requiring fans to purchase ‘credit card entry’ tickets which require fans to present the credit card used to buy the ticket plus a government-issued identification card for the person who bought the ticket”.

Of course, some of those trying to restrict the touts also recognise that anti-touting solutions still need to let customers who want to transfer tickets to friends to do so. And that there needs to be a way for those who bought tickets to a show genuinely intending to go, but who then can’t attend, to sell their tickets on. Having an approved face-value resale platform for each show is one of the ways that promoters can help in that regard.

In many ways, Albo’s new act in Virginia is simply trying to ensure that customers have those options under law. But in doing so, it will also make it harder for promoters in the state to limit the industrial touting of tickets, which will mean more tickets for in-demand events going for hiked up prices on the resale sites. Which is hardly good for the consumers the act seeks to defend.