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Senators Question Ticketmaster, Live Nation on Alleged Scalper Collusion

"The allegations of the harms to consumers ... are serious and deserve immediate attention,” the letter reads.

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute

UPDATED: U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Michael Rapino, CEO of Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation, about the allegations made in a CBC/Toronto Star report last week, which claims the company’s proprietary program, TradeDesk, to allow ticket scalpers to access a web-based inventory of Ticketmaster’s ticket supply in order to circumvent ticket sale limits to resell tickets at higher prices — with the company’s acquiescence.

“CBC News reported that Ticketmaster . . . recruits and employs professional ticket scalpers to circumvent the ticket purchasing limits on its own primary ticket sales platform in an effort to expand its ticket resale division,” the senators wrote. “Citing examples of TradeDesk users moving up to several million tickets per year, the allegations of the harms to consumers made in this piece are serious and deserve immediate attention,” the senators continued. They requested a reply from Rapino by Oct. 5.

A rep for Ticketmaster responded with the following statement: “It’s clear from the Senators’ letter that recent reporting has left the impression that Ticketmaster provides brokers with ticket-buying software, which is categorically false. We look forward to clarifying these misconceptions later this week,” apparently referring to the official response to the senators’ letter. The rep also referenced a blog post from Ticketmaster president Jared Smith, which reads in part:

“Let me be absolutely clear and definitive that Ticketmaster does not have, and has never had, any program or product that helps professional resellers gain an advantage to buy tickets ahead of fans. Period.  We would never make anything like that, which would go against the very core of who we are and what we do.  And that’s simply not what TradeDesk is.”

The full text of the senators’ is below:

Mr. Michael Rapino
President and Chief Executive Officer
Live Nation Entertainment
9348 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

Dear Mr. Rapino:

CBC News reported on September 19th that Ticketmaster, the live-event ticket sales and distribution subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment, recruits and employs professional ticket scalpers to circumvent the ticket purchasing limits on its own primary ticket sales platform in an effort to expand its ticket resale division According to the article, Ticketmaster utilizes a professional reseller program called TradeDesk, which provides a web-based inventory for scalpers to effectively purchase large quantities of tickets from Ticketmaster’s primary ticket sales website and resell these tickets for higher prices on its own resale platform. Citing examples of TradeDesk users moving up to several million tickets per year, the allegations of the harms to consumers made in this piece are serious and deserve immediate attention.

Given our ongoing interest in protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, we seek clarification on the use of this program. The enacted Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act of 2016 prohibits the “circumvention of a security measure, access control system, or other technological control or measure on an Internet website or online service that is used by the ticket issuer to enforce posted event ticket purchasing limits or to maintain the integrity of posted online ticket purchasing order rule.”[2] Please provide responses to the following questions:

  • Describe the event ticket purchasing limits that Ticketmaster currently employs for sales on its primary ticket sales platform. Additionally, how does the company identify computer programs used to circumvent these purchasing limits?
  • Do Ticketmaster’s ticket purchasing limits and associated detection practices apply to users of its online program, TradeDesk? If not, please explain.
  • What are the specific rules and processes of compliance for participating TradeDesk users as it relates to ticket purchasing limits and other relevant consumer protection priorities? Please share any documents and guidance materials that are provided to TradeDesk users.
  • What role does Ticketmaster’s Professional Reseller Handbook play in deterring its resellers from engaging in illegal ticket purchasing activities?

Please provide your written response as soon as possible, but no later than 5 p.m. on October 5, 2018. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.