Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Pascrell, Pallone Announce New Study on Event Ticket Marketplace

May 14, 2018
Press Release
GAO Report Presents Clear Need for Congress to Provide Oversight of Unregulated $9 Billion Industry

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, announce the release of a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of anti-consumer marketing and pricing practices in the event tickets marketplace, which the Democrats requested along with Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-06). 

“GAO findings confirm the daily experience of Americans just trying to get a little entertainment: coveted ticketed events are more expensive, harder to obtain, and larded with hidden fees as fans are being by squeezed for every nickel,” said Rep. Pascrell. “This industry is a multi-billion dollar wild west with no regulation and no transparency. Congress must step in to impose true oversight on an industry that makes its way ripping off customers and end rampant speculation on the secondary marketplace that skyrockets prices. I will be using this report to strengthen my pro-consumer ticket industry legislation for reintroduction. The report also confirms that Live Nation-Ticketmaster is a monopolistic corporation whose practices are torturing consumers and strangling competition.”

“Today’s GAO Report on Ticket Sales confirms what anyone who has ever tried to buy a ticket to a concert, show, or sporting event already knows: the system is rigged against consumers,” Rep. Pallone said. “All too often fans cannot get tickets at face value or at all because the deck has been stacked against them in favor of professional ticket brokers, illegal ticket bots, and unscrupulous resellers.  The event ticketing industry is out of control and it is time for both the FTC to take action and for Congress to intervene on behalf of consumers. Congressman Pascrell and I will continue to advocate for legislation to reform the industry with common sense consumer protections such as requiring up-front disclosure of all ticket fees.”

In 2009, the Obama administration approved a merger between Live Nation, the nation’s largest concert promoter, and Ticketmaster, the largest ticket provider. Rejecting protests that the joint company would ultimately harm competition and increase barriers for fans, Obama’s top antitrust regulator, Christine Varney, promised that the new company would create “enough air and sunlight…for strong competitors to take root, grow, and thrive.” The findings of the GAO and a plethora of reports and investigations since, including a recent explosive New York Times exposé, make clear that has not happened and Live Nation remains anti-competitive.

Some highlights of the GAO report:

*The $9 billion-a-year event ticketing business is dominated by Ticketmaster, the largest ticketing company in the primary market and the second largest seller of tickets on the secondary market, and StubHub, the largest seller of tickets on the secondary market.

* By the time tickets go on sale to the public, only limited seats are available, with as many as 65 percent presold to fan clubs or other groups and another 16 percent on average held back by artists and promoters.  Brokers quickly snatch up any remaining seats, and consumers are forced to turn to the resale market with exorbitant markups that that may be double or more of face value.

* Primary and secondary ticketing companies also add fees that average 27 and 31 percent of ticket prices, respectively.  The massive add-on fees are frequently hidden until late in the purchase process, making it hard for customers to know the true cost of tickets and giving unscrupulous sellers the edge over companies that clearly disclose all fees upfront.

A copy of the full report is available here.

Congressman Pascrell was an early critic of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, and repeatedly urged the Obama administration to reject it, warning that the union would crush competition and harm consumers. After Ticketmaster infamously redirected Bruce Springsteen fans to its secondary site TicketsNow to buy marked up seats without notice, Pascrell introduced the BOSS Act in 2009 to create better transparency in the sale of live event tickets and provide overhaul reform of the unregulated secondary market. The legislation was offered in subsequent congresses and the subject of a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in 2016. Rep. Pascrell will be reintroducing a revamped version of his bill.