On Monday, July 2, New Jersey will welcome Iron Maiden to the Prudential Center in Newark. But before lucky concertgoers take their seats, all fans need to know about the latest anti-consumer practice that could potentially turn the concert into a disaster.
The problem dates back to 2009 when Ticketmaster directed Bruce Springsteen fans to Ticketmaster’s “TicketsNow” website that was selling his concert tickets for more than three times face value. While many public officials condemned this practice, and a class-action lawsuit won concessions from Ticketmaster, it now appears that Ticketmaster is trying another ploy to capture more fans’ hard-earned money.
Ticketmaster has embraced a mechanism called “paperless” tickets. This concept requires ticket purchasers to present the credit card they used to buy their tickets as well as valid photo identification in order to gain admission to a live sporting event or concert. In fact, select seats at Monday’s Iron Maiden concert will be restricted, paperless tickets. What concertgoers need to know now is that “paperless ticketing” is a deceptive industry term designed to force fans into a system where the original ticket issuer restricts or prohibits the transfer of the very tickets a fan bought and now owns.
There are two types of “paperless” tickets offered by primary ticket issuers. First, there are “nontransferable tickets” which, as the name implies, prohibits the original purchaser from transferring his or her tickets completely. This helps venues put a price-floor on ticket seats ensuring the venue maximum value (e.g. no bargain prices for premium tickets before the nosebleed section sells out). Then there are “transfer-restricted tickets” that allow Ticketmaster to charge another one of their unfair convenience fees. Transfer-restricted tickets force the consumer into a closed-loop system where tickets are only transferable through a Ticketmaster-owned service such as TicketsNow or TicketExchange. No matter which ticket you get, Ticketmaster and other ticket issuers get a chance to squeeze the fans for more money.
Paperless tickets can be a nightmare for the average fan who cannot make an event due to unforeseen circumstances. If a fan gets sick the night of the Iron Maiden show, a restrictive, paperless ticket means the fan can’t just give the ticket to his friend. How about if a group of friends purchased paperless tickets using one person’s credit card? No one can gain entry to the show without the original purchaser present with her ID and credit card. So your group runs the risk of missing the opening act while waiting for your friend and her MasterCard at Dinsoaur’s BBQ. And if families wanted to buy Yankees tickets online at a price below face value, restrictive ticketing would allow the original ticket seller, such as Ticketmaster, to place an artificial price floor on these great deals.
Non-transferrable tickets can even impact the nonprofit community because season ticket holders would be unable to easily donate tickets to a charity for a fundraising auction. Simply put, restrictive paperless tickets “restrict” a ticket owner’s generosity.
So why is Ticketmaster putting their customers through a proverbial gauntlet just to see their favorite acts perform? Because Ticketmaster and Live Nation want complete control of the ticket market. Could you imagine if General Motors dictated to whom and for how much their vehicles could be resold after consumers purchase and drive their car home?
It’s unfair, and in New Jersey, state Sens. Raymond Lesniak and Robert W. Singer, and Assem. Vincent Prieto, have sponsored legislation to prohibit the practice. The Consumers League of New Jersey was proud to join nonprofits, season ticketholders, business groups and other consumer advocates to advance this bill in the state Legislature, but more action is needed in the Senate and Assembly to make this pro-consumer bill law.
Until that time, as the state’s consumer protection watchdog, Consumers League of New Jersey has to shine some light on these ticketing practices of Ticketmaster. By all accounts, restrictive, paperless tickets are an anti-consumer practice masquerading as something else. On behalf of Consumers League, I want fans to take a good look at the source of their “paperless tickets” before heading into Monday’s show.
Bob Russo is President of Consumers League of New Jersey, the State’s oldest independent consumer watchdog, which has fought to protect interests of consumers since 1900. Russo has previously served as director of the Lemon Law at N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs.