U.S. senators want answers, pen letter to Live Nation CEO requesting response to Ticketmaster scalping racket allegations
U.S. senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Con.) are seeking further details about Ticketmaster‘s alleged oversight of a secret ticket scalping scheme, supposedly ran on Ticketmaster’s invite-only secondary ticket sale site, TradeDesk. Moran and Blumenthal penned a letter to the CEO of Live Nation — Ticketmaster’s parent company — Michael Rapino, in which the senators ask for clarification on the use of TradeDesk. The issue is of particular interest for the senators, who were instrumental in the institution of the Obama-signed BOTS Act, which limits the use of bots in consumer ticket purchasing.
The accusation that Ticketmaster colluded with ticket scalpers to orchestrate the covert ticket scalping system on TradeDesk stems from the publication of an investigation jointly conducted by CBC News and the Toronto Star. CBC News and the Toronto Star claimed therein that two of their undercover journalists posed as scalpers at a live entertainment convention hosted during summer 2018, during which Ticketmaster personnel pitched their “underground professional resale program.” The Ticketmaster staff members present at the convention reportedly told the journalists that there are brokers with “a couple of hundred accounts” on TradeDesk. Ticketmaster representatives allegedly also stated that the multiple accounts are not “something that we look at or report,” despite Ticketmaster’s support of its in-house buyer abuse division designed to probe online ticket sales for suspicious behavior. Ticketmaster has since denied its participation in any scalping related activity.
Moran and Blumenthal ask Rapino to respond to the letter by October 5. Among other areas of question, Moran and Blumenthal prompt Rapino to specify whether “Ticketmaster’s ticket purchasing limits and associated detection practices apply to users of…TradeDesk,” and what role…Ticketmaster’s Professional Reseller Handbook plays in deterring its resellers from engaging in illegal ticket purchasing activities. Ticketmaster CEO Jared Smith meanwhile released a statement proclaiming Ticketmaster’s innocence. “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.
The full text of Moran and Blumenthal’s letter follows 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
Featured image: J. Scott Applewhite