FTC Formally Proposes Ban on ‘Junk Fees’ — Including ‘Hidden Mandatory Fees’ for Concert Tickets

  • Save

  • Save
An optimistic FTC estimate of the time savings that could be delivered to fans with the across-the-board adoption of all-in pricing for live-entertainment tickets. Photo Credit: Digital Music News

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has officially proposed a ban on “junk fees” – including hidden charges attached to the purchase of tickets to concerts and other live-entertainment events.

The government agency announced the suggested rule, aptly referred to as the “Rule on Unfair or Deceptive Fees,” in a formal release as well as a north of 160-page proposal. For background, the White House in November of 2022 disclosed plans to target “hidden junk fees,” which, as described at the time, included certain ticketing charges but focused chiefly on credit-card, airline, and hotel fees.

Following the well-documented Eras Tour presale fiasco (and an adjacent congressional testimony from Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold), the matter continued to command headlines during early 2023. Capitalizing upon the mood, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle went ahead and put out multiple bills – among them the Junk Fee Prevention Act, the TICKET Act, the BOSS and SWIFT Act, and the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act.

Finally, in terms of pertinent background details, the White House over the summer announced during a press conference “all-in pricing” commitments from SeatGeek, Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary, and others. Live Nation/Ticketmaster last month activated all-in pricing – albeit only where required by law, with the option available to toggle in different states.

“In response to the White House calling for disclosure of hidden fees,” the FTC explained of its decision to continue focusing on the live-entertainment space in spite of the concession, “some ticket sellers have voluntarily pledged to show ‘all-in prices’ when the consumer begins the purchase process.

“However, these voluntary pledges were announced after the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the proposed rule and may be in response to proposed national legislation. Absent the proposed rule, market forces would likely return to the equilibrium of hidden mandatory fees.”

The FTC is now seeking comments on said proposed rule and will be accepting this public feedback for 60 days, according to officials. And while the agency dedicated a number of pages to exploring the perceived possible benefits of the rule for consumers – including potential saved money as well as time, in the entity’s view – Live Nation previously indicated that it was unworried about an all-in mandate.

“We don’t believe there will be any impact whatsoever if there was a nationwide mandate for all-in pricing,” the aforementioned president and CFO Joe Berchtold spelled out in November of 2022.

Of course, at least when it comes to the tours of commercially prominent acts who boast exceedingly dedicated fanbases, evidence suggests that Berchtold’s assessment will prove accurate.