If you stuffed stockings and holiday cards with tickets to someone’s favorite event this past holiday season, make sure that you knew what you were doing. There’s a fight brewing between consumers and the big-ticket distributors that might lead you to think twice.
The big boys such as Ticketmaster are leading the charge on a state-by-state basis to create a system in which they will own from start to finish the tickets to see games, concerts and any other event they control. In their ideal world, if you buy tickets from them but then need to sell your tickets because you get sick or change your mind, you wouldn’t be able to do so without using their system of designated re-sellers.
Most consumers are unaware that this effort is under way.
Often, the big distributors clothe their motives with gimmicks. The latest is “paperless ticketing.” It sounds great. You buy tickets online and present an ID at the venue to claim them. However, what happens if you get sick or change your mind? Then the consumer begins to realize how the system has been designed to work: Sometimes the tickets can’t be transferred at all, or they can be resold but only through the distributor’s system.
Why are the distributors pushing this? The reason is simple. They want to control the resale of tickets so they can keep making money in the secondary market. And they are flexing their lobbying muscle to try to get laws passed that would mandate a monopoly.
It’s a big change from the way things have always worked, with paper tickets freely being bought and sold on the secondary market. What’s worse, the live event and sports industry tried pushing legislation through the Florida Legislature last year that would have changed the very nature of tickets and put the government in the position to pick winners and losers in the secondary market.
Imagine going down to your local car dealership to buy a new truck. You drive it for a couple months and decide it’s just not for you. You put an ad in the paper asking for what you consider to be a fair price. But instead of hearing from a fellow consumer, you get a call from the dealership. They tell you there was a law passed that requires you either to sell your truck back to them, at a price they determine, or to sell it through them, with a new set of fees and commissions tacked on.
Such a notion defies common-sense and certainly free-market principles.
To be clear, we don’t take exception with private corporations determining the prices at which they will sell their goods and services. My objection is not about the prices of tickets or the commissions and fees that distributors charge, even if some of us feel they are too high. The free market allows businesses and consumers to take risks and test out what the market will bear.
What I object to is a few dominant distributors using government action to control the market. I believe Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, had noble intentions when he introduced legislation last year. However, his bill would hurt consumers, limit access, and bring the government into private sector affairs it has no business stepping into.
Florida has a free market for ticketing sales. We strongly urge our Legislature to keep it that way, and we hope we won’t see similar legislation introduced in 2014.
It will make everyone’s stocking stuffer that more enjoyable.
Jim Hart is the chairman of Floridians for Government Accountability.