Ticketmaster Is Now In the Crosshairs of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) headquarters in Washington, DC (photo: Carol M. Highsmith collection, public domain)

Weeks after an explosive undercover report revealed that Ticketmaster works closely with scalpers to sell their second-hand tickets; the FTC has announced a workshop to investigate how online ticketing is handled.

Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation witnessed its stock price drop as much as 5.5% after the report of the workshop.  But a little damage control helped to recover some of those losses.

So what’s the FTC doing, exactly?

A just-announced 2019 workshop will include FTC commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and will consist of a variety of stakeholders, industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, and government officials discussing the practices of online event ticketing.

“Issues that frequently arise in connection with online event ticket sales include practices that prevent consumers from obtaining tickets, mislead consumers about price or availability, or mislead consumers about the entity from which they are purchasing,” the powerful regulator ominously noted.

It should be noted that this isn’t a formal investigation — yet.  But this looks like an initial rattling of the cage.

Ticketmaster quickly an official statement about the investigation, saying they welcome the FTC’s involvement.  They also clarified that this wasn’t a formal investigation, but rather an ‘examination’.

“Ticketmaster welcomes and looks forward to participating in the FTC workshop on online ticketing in March 2019,” the company nervously stated.  “We encourage other ticketing companies to take part in educating consumers and lawmakers on the opportunities and challenges in the ticketing industry and to join us in further action to improve the consumer ticket buying experience, including aggressive enforcement of the BOTS Act, the elimination of speculative ticket sales and restrictions on deceptive marketing and misleading ticketing URLs.”

Earlier, an FTC workshop held in May of this year examined the ticketing business and found that consumers are at a disadvantage compared to professional resellers when it comes to buying tickets to high-demand events.  This report ended with calls for more disclosure on ticket availability and fees.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) has used the FTC probe as further evidence against Ticketmaster’s business practices.

“For anyone who enjoys live events and purchases tickets, or who works in the ticketing business and competes with the giant Ticketmaster, it is welcome news today that the Federal Trade Commission will convene a workshop to examine the anticompetitive practices that NATB has been warning about for a long time,” NATB’s Gary Adler declared.

“The DOJ is already reportedly investigating Ticketmaster against complaints that it may be violating the consent agreement it entered into when it merged with Live Nation, and now the FTC has announced it will look into practices that limit ticket availability on the primary market and mislead consumers about ticket prices and availability.”

Members of the public are invited to submit comments for the workshop on the FTC’s website.

The deadline to enter a submission is December 5.

The workshop is free and open to the public and will be webcast on the FTC’s site. Those who want to attend in person can do so at the FTC’s Constitution Avenue headquarters in Washington D.C.