Pascrell, Pallone, Blumenthal Reintroduce BOSS Act

On eve of Springsteen album, the legislation would impose transparency to fraught live events ticket market

https://pascrell.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=3931

U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today reintroduced his BOSS Act legislation to provide needed transparency and regulation to the badly corrupted primary and second live events ticket marketplace. The House legislation is also cosponsored by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ-08).

“Even though it’s 2019, the $9 Billion live events ticket market resembles the Wild West: bereft of regulation and order, with bad actors around too many corners making a living by ripping people off,” said Rep. Pascrell. “The BOSS Act would finally impose hard regulation and transparency to the ticket market so that fans can find affordable tickets and enjoy some live entertainment in these uneasy times without fear of being taken to the cleaners. America has been gouged and gouged and then gouged some more. Ticket buyers don’t know how many tickets are going on sale or how many are being held back, can’t see what fees will be tacked on, and sometimes don’t even know if the tickets they are purchasing exist yet. For too long on these issues, our government has failed to hear the ghost of Tom Joad, the common man, and woman. It’s high time the government stands up for him and for them. My legislation is for the fans, not Ticketmaster.”

“The ticket marketplace badly needs updated rules of the road to ensure it’s fair, transparent, and working for consumers,” said Chairman Pallone.  “That’s why I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep. Pascrell’s BOSS Act, which assures that consumers will be protected when buying tickets from ticket sellers and resellers.  I thank Rep. Pascrell for his longstanding leadership on this important issue to New Jerseyans and all Americans. “

“This essential bill guarantees consumers protection and transparency when purchasing tickets to their favorite live events,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Hidden fees and other tactics used widely to gouge fans should not be a part of the concert experience. With the passage of this bill, we can remove the veil around the ticket-buying process, allowing hard-working Americans the opportunity to simply enjoy the show.”

“Anyone who has tried to buy a ticket recently knows that the ticketing marketplace is rigged against us. Fans are forced to navigate a maze of hidden fees, rampant ticket holdbacks that create artificial “sell-outs,” and illegal ticket-buying bots that cut in line to hoard the best seats before fans even have a chance to buy them,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Congressman Pascrell’s BOSS ACT is the fix the broken ticket market needs. The bill will bring much-needed transparency to an opaque ticket-buying process and put consumers in control of their tickets. NCL applauds Congressman Pascrell’s leadership on this issue and looks forward to seeing this critical consumer protection measure signed into law.”

“We support this legislation because consumers shouldn’t be in the dark when they are buying event tickets,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America. “They should have the right to see what the total cost will be, how many tickets are available, and how refunds will work before they hand over their hard-earned cash.”

“Consumer Reports strongly supports the BOSS Act, legislation that would bring much needed transparency to the ticketing marketplace. Consumers have made clear that they are sick of pricey fees and sneaky tactics,” said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy at Consumer Reports. “They have the right to know how much they are going to pay and what they will get for their money. By requiring companies to advertise ticket prices with all mandatory fees included, this bill would dramatically improve the customer experience.”

“The BOSS Act will provide much-needed clarity and consistency to an opaque marketplace riddled with deception and anticompetitive behavior,” said Brian Hess, Executive Director, Sports Fans Coalition. “Sports Fans Coalition commends Congressman Pascrell for his leadership and advocacy on this issue.”

“The BOSS Act is the kind of law that will help protect competition in the resale marketplace so that consumers have more than one expensive and overbearing source from which to shop for or resell their tickets. Plus, it promotes transparency which is vital to a consumer-friendly ticket industry and  will generally help make the experience less confusing and frustrating for fans,” said Gary Adler, Executive Director and Counsel for the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB).

Rep. Pascrell first introduced the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing, or BOSS Act in 2009 after Ticketmaster infamously redirected Bruce Springsteen fans to its secondary site TicketsNow to buy marked up seats without notice during the Boss’s “Working on a Dream” tour.

The BOSS ACT would bring a basic level of transparency to the ticket industry so that fans have a fair chance to purchase tickets on the primary market.  It also seeks to protect consumers who choose to use the secondary market to purchase tickets.  

Primary marketplace provisions

  • Requirements for all-in pricing to ensure ticket sellers disclose all ancillary charges before customers select a ticket for purchase.
  • Transparency in use of holdbacks.
  • Restrictions on preventing reselling or instituting a price floor on tickets.
  • Disclosure of refund policies.

Secondary marketplace provision

  • Transparency in the sale of speculative tickets.
  • Disclosure to purchasers when the secondary seller is the primary ticket seller, venue, team, or artist associated with the event.
  • Requirements for all-in pricing to ensure ticket sellers disclose all ancillary charges in price quotes and advertisements before customers select a ticket for purchase.
  • Prohibitions on employees of venues, primary ticket sellers, teams, artists, online resale marketplaces, or box offices involved in hosting, promoting, performing in, or selling tickets to knowingly resell tickets at a higher price.
  • Restrictions on selling a ticket for the same seat to more than one person at the same time.

A full section-by-section breakdown of the legislation is available here.

Congressman Pascrell has been a leader in Congress calling for regulation of the opaque live events ticket market. Pascrell was an early critic of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, and repeatedly urged the Obama administration to reject it, warning that the union would crush competition and harm consumers. In May 2018, Pascrell wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on his attempts to impose greater positive regulation on the broken live events ticket market.

Two months later, Reps. Pascrell and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06), the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, wrote a letter to FTC chairman Joseph Simons highlighting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study which found a myriad of consumer protection and competition issues in the primary and secondary live event ticket markets. The GAO report was commissioned in response to Pallone and Pascrell’s work, and the members urged Simons to do more to protect consumers in the marketplace. In response, the FTC organized a workshop on event tickets held earlier this week to reviewed many of the challenges faced by fans.  

In September 2018, Pascrell was featured in the wide-ranging investigation by the CBC into corruption in the live events ticket marketplace. Pascrell’s interview segment is available here, and the next month Pascrell wrote a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for the Justice Department to open an investigation of continued market corruption by Ticketmaster.