Springsteen ticket mess sparks lawmaker action

June 1, 2009 9:50:13 PM PDT
A New Jersey congressman is proposing legislation that targets online ticket sellers after recent controversies involving Bruce Springsteen concerts prompted action by the state's attorney general. U.S. Rep. William Pascrell Jr. wants tougher laws governing online ticket sellers and resellers. His legislation would radically alter the way online ticket sellers do business and give buyers more information about the tickets they're purchasing.

MORE: Sen. Schumer warns of Springteen ticket scams.

Pascrell announced the legislation less than a week after New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram sued several companies who offered tickets to Springsteen shows this fall before they were available to the public.

Two months earlier, Milgram stepped in when customers seeking tickets to Springsteen shows in May were redirected from Ticketmaster's site to a subsidiary that charged up to 50 times the tickets' face value. Ticketmaster blamed a software glitch and agreed to change its online sales process.

Pascrell said his office received more than 2,000 complaints about the February incident.

His legislation, a play on Springsteen's nickname dubbed the BOSS ACT (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing), would require sellers to disclose information such as how many tickets are available to the public for a given event.

"Transparency has been lacking in this industry all along," Pascrell said Monday. "I want the Federal Trade Commission to look at this and establish guidelines. I have nothing against anyone gaining a profit; I want the industry to continue, but they're going to have to have some guidelines." Pascrell's legislation also would require primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster to print the date and time of sale on each ticket, and disclose all extra charges by printing them on the ticket. In addition, it would require secondary sellers, such as those sued last week in New Jersey, to disclose the face value of tickets and their precise location in the arena.

The legislation would require secondary sellers to state whether they have the tickets in their possession at the time of sale and prohibit secondary sellers from buying tickets during the first 48 hours of a public sale.

The guidelines are partly aimed at preventing what occurred recently when state investigators were able to buy tickets online to Springsteen's three fall concerts at Giants Stadium several days before the tickets officially went on sale June 1. Some of the tickets were offered for several times face value.

The companies violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act because they didn't have the tickets in their possession when they accepted money for them, lawsuits filed by the state claim. In addition, one suit alleges, Orbitz and TicketNetwork Inc. also offered tickets through the Web site www.cheaptickets.com for seat locations that don't exist in Giants Stadium.

Thomas Patania, owner of New Jersey-based Select-A-Ticket, one of the companies named in the lawsuits, said ticket sellers already are regulated by the National Association of Ticket Brokers, established in 1994.

He said the secondary sellers can act as a counterweight and drive down prices, and pointed to high-priced tickets at the new Yankee Stadium that have been resold for far less than face value. Pascrell's legislation would upset that equation, he said.

"There would be no competition for 48 hours, so the primary market could sell them for whatever they wanted," Patania said.

"Right now, the secondary market keeps the primary market in check. If you have nobody doing that, then what happens?" Ticketmaster did not return a call for comment Monday.


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