Op Ed: Bipartisan Bill Protecting Ticket Buyers Should Be Welcome in Missouri

Op Ed: Bipartisan Bill Protecting Ticket Buyers Should Be Welcome in Missouri

Columbia Daily Tribune, April 26, 2015

By Carl Bearden and Tracy McCreery

From very different perspectives, we — a former Republican state representative and current director of United for Missouri, and a Democratic state representative and board member of Consumers Council of Missouri — share a concern over practices in the live event ticketing industry that affect thousands of sports and entertainment fans in Missouri: restricted ticketing.

Restricted ticketing, dubbed “credit card entry” tickets by Ticketmaster and its business partners in the music and sports industries, replaces traditional tickets by requiring the ticket buyer to present the purchasing credit card and matching photo ID to enter an event. This causes alarm for consumers on both sides of the political aisle.

When a ticket is tied to an individual’s credit card, it is nontransferable. This is where the trouble begins for fans.

Imagine you cannot attend an event as originally planned. Plans change: You get sick, you have to work or your babysitter cancels. When your tickets are nontransferable, you cannot resell them or give them away. You are stuck eating the entire cost of the ticket. Sports fans with season tickets who sell a few tickets to recoup some of the cost of the ticket package are simply out of luck.

In addition, requiring the use of a credit or debit card to buy a ticket discriminates against the thousands of Missourians who do not have a card. Even if only the best seats in the house are restricted, is it fair that Missouri taxpayers who helped fund the arenas and stadiums but do not have a credit or debit card are relegated to the cheap seats?

This policy is completely at odds with both of our ideals. Whether you look at this as a free-market issue, a property rights issue or a consumer choice issue, the effect is the same: huge corporations using their market power to limit the rights of fans, competitors and small businesses.

When you buy a ticket, you own it. Ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster or the artists, sports teams and venues they work with should not be able to control what you do with your tickets after you buy them.

This is why Missouri needs House Bill 939.

HB 939 ensures that you always have the choice of buying a ticket you can transfer whenever and however you want.

New York State passed similar legislation five years ago. Contrary to what billionaire team owners and millionaire artists claim, no team has packed up and left New York because it cannot use restricted ticketing. And no artists, save Yusuf Islam (also known as Cat Stevens), have opted out of playing New York. And not just New York City. A-list performers such as Garth Brooks continue to play smaller markets in Upstate New York such as Buffalo.

Ticketmaster, and the artists and teams it does business with, claims restricted ticketing is a benign effort to limit scalping. However, they are all heavily involved in, and profit from, the resale market. Ticketmaster owns and operates several resale websites, and every major sports league partners with secondary websites to increase revenue. Even recording artists such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Kid Rock have been caught, or admitted to, scalping their own tickets. This raises concerns over whether the motives of the opponents to the bill are to stop scalping or to make sure they are the only ones who can profit from it.

Without HB 939, we fear the situation will only get worse. Concentrating more control over tickets in the hands of the artists, teams and ticket sellers who already control the market will result in even less competition among ticket sellers. That means fewer choices and higher prices for fans.

Carl Bearden is executive director of United for Missouri. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, represents the 88th District in the Missouri House.

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