Key U.S. House Panel Advances Ticketing Reform, Senators Join In

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A critical committee in the U.S. House of Representatives approved two bills aimed at federal-level reformation of ticketing December 6, making both eligible for a vote of the full house.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee went through the full committee mark-up process on more than three dozen bills Dec. 6, including the TICKET Act — sponsored by Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) — and the STOP Act, on which Bilirakis and Schakowsky are joined by Rep. Kelly Armstrong, a North Dakota Republican, as sponsor. The bills contain significant overlap and the fact that both are winding their way through the lawmaking process in parallel is largely a function of the realities of legislative sausage making.

The Senate companion of the TICKET Act — like its House brethren, a rare piece of bipartisanship as it is sponsored by Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell and Texas Republican Ted Cruz — passed the upper chamber’s commerce committee in July and awaits a vote of the full Senate.

In any event, both chambers have ticket reform packages on the cusp of full votes, meaning substantive reform is — maybe — closer than ever before.

Broadly, the bills — which in many ways mirrors Live Nation’s FAIR Ticketing Act proposal — would mandate all-in ticketing across the industry, meaning the price shown is the final price at checkout.

 “The first price that you see when you order the ticket is the price that you pay — not a penny more,” Schakowsky said during the committee hearing.

The White House announced in June that Live Nation — which has advocated for all-in pricing for years — would move to the system going forward for all events sold on Ticketmaster held at its owned-and-operated venues. LN also agreed that it would be an option available for other events — those not held at LN venues — sold on Ticketmaster.

The bill also implements guardrails on the secondary market. It requires secondary sellers to disclose that fact. In addition, unless a specific agreement is in place making a partnership formal, a secondary seller cannot imply or suggest they are affiliated with a venue, team or artist. Further, secondary sites are prevented from using the name of artists, venues or teams in a deceptive way. Secondary sellers are also required to make their refund policies clear.

The reforms would also require primary sellers to provide refunds for cancelled events or to provide replacement tickets in certain situations.

The STOP Act, specifically, takes aim at speculative sellers, vendors who sell customers tickets they don’t actually control or hold themselves. While there is a legal theory that speculative tickets are either at worst already illegal or at best futures that should be regulated like other securities, no prosecutor or regulator has undertaken that battle. The STOP Act would ban the practice. The TICKET Act would merely require the disclosure that speculative tickets are just that.

The Senate version of the TICKET Act, which advanced out of committee this summer, originally included the disclosure language, but it was removed during the hearing. Late Thursday, A bipartisan group of Senators announced the FANS First Act, which largely reflects the latest House version of TICKET.

In an industry echo of Capitol Hill bipartisanship, Wednesday’s steps met with praise from both the indie-venue backed Fix The Tix coalition and from Live Nation.

“Artists, fans, and venues deserve a TICKET Act with meaningful protections in addition to transparency. Predatory resellers sell speculative, or fake, tickets to American consumers every day. They use deceptive websites and marketing tactics to trick fans into thinking they are buying tickets from an artist’s venue. These practices are blatantly fraudulent, and the TICKET Act advanced out of Committee today bans them,” Fix The Tix said in a statement, while also calling for all-in pricing to include “clear and conspicuous itemization” of prices and fees.

“It’s great to see bipartisan support for ticketing reforms. We’ve long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, along with other measures including banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites that trick fans. We’ll continue working with policymakers, advocating for even stronger reforms and enforcement to stop predatory practices that hurt fans and artists,” Live Nation said in a statement.

There’s still a long way to go. Even if both chambers pass the bills, a conference committee would have to sort out the differences before anything could move to the president’s desk for a signature.