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US Congress addresses Live Nation CEO over Ticketmaster’s alleged involvement in ticket scalping

Last week, CBS News and the Toronto Star ran an damning joint-investigative report that alleged Ticketmaster, the live-event ticket sales and distribution subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment, was involved in a ticket scalping ring drove up prices of concert tickets.

Now Congress wants answers. Specifically, because their alleged involvement potentially violates the Obama era BOTS Act, a bi-partisan bill passed in both the house and senate to protect consumers by limiting the use of bot programs in the online ticket buying process. The key architects of the bill were U.S. senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Con.), who are now seeking further evidence over Ticketmaster’s apparent oversight of a ticket scalping scheme ran through it’s invite-only resale site, TradeDesk.com.

Moran and Blumenthal penned a letter to the CEO of Ticketmaster’s parent company, Michael Rapino of Live Nation, seeking further clarification on the use of Trade Desk. Michael Rapino, who will no doubt be operating under the advice of his lawyers, has until October 5 to respond.

In the meantime, Ticketmaster CEO Jared Smith released a press statement denying any involvement between Ticketmaster and any third party scalping website, via Trade Desk or otherwise. “Ticketmaster does not have, and has never had, any program or product that helps professional resellers gain an advantage to buy tickets ahead of fans. Period,” Smith said.

Plausible deniability, however, does not seem to be on the companies’ side as they’ve historically both been at the center of monopolistic behaviors and unfair business practices.

Read Moran and Blumenthal’s letter to Mike Rapino below:

Mr. Michael Rapino
President and Chief Executive Officer
Live Nation Entertainment
9348 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

Dear Mr. Rapino:

CBC News reported on September 19th that Ticketmaster, the live-event ticket sales and distribution subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment, recruits and employs professional ticket scalpers to circumvent the ticket purchasing limits on its own primary ticket sales platform in an effort to expand its ticket resale division. According to the article, Ticketmaster utilizes a professional reseller program called TradeDesk, which provides a web-based inventory for scalpers to effectively purchase large quantities of tickets from Ticketmaster’s primary ticket sales website and resell these tickets for higher prices on its own resale platform. Citing examples of TradeDesk users moving up to several million tickets per year, the allegations of the harms to consumers made in this piece are serious and deserve immediate attention.

Given our ongoing interest in protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, we seek clarification on the use of this program. The enacted Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act of 2016 prohibits the “circumvention of a security measure, access control system, or other technological control or measure on an Internet website or online service that is used by the ticket issuer to enforce posted event ticket purchasing limits or to maintain the integrity of posted online ticket purchasing order rule.” Please provide responses to the following questions:

Describe the event ticket purchasing limits that Ticketmaster currently employs for sales on its primary ticket sales platform. Additionally, how does the company identify computer programs used to circumvent these purchasing limits?

Do Ticketmaster’s ticket purchasing limits and associated detection practices apply to users of its online program, TradeDesk? If not, please explain.

What are the specific rules and processes of compliance for participating TradeDesk users as it relates to ticket purchasing limits and other relevant consumer protection priorities? Please share any documents and guidance materials that are provided to TradeDesk users.

What role does Ticketmaster’s Professional Reseller Handbook play in deterring its resellers from engaging in illegal ticket purchasing activities?

Please provide your written response as soon as possible, but no later than 5 p.m. on October 5, 2018. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

H/T: Rolling Stone