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State lawmakers look to stop ticket scalpers from selling ‘fake’ seats

  • By Jaxon White/LNP | LancasterOnline
The Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg on March 24, 2023. Jeremy Long - WITF News

 Jeremy Long / WITF

The Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg on March 24, 2023. Jeremy Long - WITF News

This story is published in partnership with our sister newsroom LNP | LancasterOnline. 

State Sen. Ryan Aument wants to stop online ticket resellers from duping people into buying “fake” tickets for concerts, musicals and other shows.

Aument, a West Hempfield Township Republican, plans to introduce a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Marty Flynn, a Lackawanna County Democrat, that would force ticket resellers to own a ticket before selling it to a customer, which is not currently required in Pennsylvania.

Aument said he expects the bill to move quickly through both chambers when lawmakers return to session later this month. While Aument’s bill has yet to be introduced, Rep. Robert Matzie, a Beaver County Democrat, introduced a companion bill to the House last month.

Matzie’s bill, co-sponsored by members of both parties, faced a public hearing Thursday where entertainment industry professionals had a chance to explain resellers’ business practices to lawmakers and tell them what they’d like to see in a regulatory bill.

“The stories are becoming more and more common,” said Kerri Park, president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Independent Venue Association. “How can it be okay for you to sell something that you don’t have?”

Park said her organization, which represents more than 50 entertainment venues in the state, has seen many people fall for resellers’ “predatory practices.” She said vendors promote tickets for sale with the correct date, name of artist and venue, but only in the fine print do they mention that they do not have the tickets in hand. They are selling a promise that they will obtain the ticket, not the ticket itself.

Sometimes vendors obtain the tickets, and sometimes they don’t.

“They (offer) what is essentially a fake ticket,” Park said.

This can lead fans to hand in what they believe is their ticket at the box office, only to find out the seat they thought they paid for belongs to someone else.

Entertainment venues are equally hurt by speculative ticket sales, said Curt Mosel, chief operating officer of ArtsQuest, which runs several venues in Bethlehem, Lehigh County. When ticket resellers fail to sell all of their tickets, they often dispute the payment charge with their bank on the unsold seats to get their money back, Mosel said, forcing the venue to take a hit.

Most venues sell their own tickets and encourage patrons to buy directly from them, but they don’t have the resources to compete with the marketing and search engine optimization of online ticket resellers, Mosel said.

“I think people just assume that this is something that can’t happen,” he said.

No secondary ticket sellers were invited to testify at the hearing, according to a House Democratic spokeswoman, but several filed letters of opposition to the bill.

Laura Dooley, head of global government relations at StubHub, wrote that speculative ticket selling should not be banned outright. Instead, there should be requirements for “robust disclosures” of the practice.

Ryan J. Fitts, vice president of Vivid Seats LLC, said his company supports disclosure laws and a requirement for a customer refund if it cannot acquire the ticket, a service his company already claims to offer on its website. But he does not support Matzie’s bill.

“Many times, fans can buy tickets on the resale market that are priced lower than those offered on the primary market,” Fitts wrote. “Resale marketplaces provide fans greater flexibility than … the primary market. Rather than having to buy a ticket ten months in advance of a concert … resale marketplaces permit fans to buy when and how they find most convenient.”

Ticketing reform made headlines this summer after scalpers took advantage of high demand for popular concerts, including Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour and Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour, by spiking seat prices with hidden fees and selling tickets they didn’t own.

Despite an initial push, federal debate on regulation has slowed. A state bill in Colorado was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in June and reform in California is unlikely after a strong oppositional lobbying campaign, according to an Associated Press report.



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