By David Goldman, CNN Business
Congress wants answers from the CEO of Ticketmaster’s parent company after a ticketing snafu ahead of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour left millions of unhappy Swifties without the ability to see the singer-songwriter perform.
In a letter addressed to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee demanded a briefing on what went wrong and what steps the company is taking to fix the problems. The committee members want to meet with Rapino by December 15.
“The recent pre-sales ticketing process for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour — in which millions of fans endured delays, lockouts, and competition with aggressive scammers, scalpers and bots — raises concerns over the potential unfair and deceptive practices that face consumers and eventgoers,” the committee wrote in its letter.
The committee noted it had previously raised concerns about the industry’s business practices and said it wants to meet with Rapino to discuss how the company processes tickets for concerts and major tours. It also wants answers about how Ticketmaster plans to improve in the future.
Swift’s Eras tour kicks off March 17 and will have 52 concerts in multiple stadiums across the United States over five months. Overwhelming demand snarled the ticketing site last month, infuriating countless fans. Customers complained on social media about Ticketmaster not loading, saying the platform didn’t allow them to access tickets, even if they had a pre-sale code for verified fans. Ticketmaster ultimately canceled ticket sales to the general public.
Ticketmaster apologized to Swift and her fans who were unable to secure tickets and blamed the debacle on its “Verified Fans” system, a mechanism aimed at eliminating bots that gives presale codes to individuals. The system couldn’t keep up with the intense demand, Ticketmaster said last month. Roughly 3.5 million people signed up for the program to buy Swift tickets, its “largest registration in history.” That unprecedented demand, combined with a “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes” drove “unprecedented traffic” to its site, Ticketmaster said, and, essentially, broke it.
But the House committee said the company’s explanation wasn’t sufficient.
“This statement raises questions over your bot management solution and its ability to adequately protect consumers,” the committee wrote.
The committee pointed out that the BOTS Act of 2016 allows the Federal Trade Commission to fine Ticketmaster with “steep” penalties if it “knowingly sold tickets that were improperly purchased” by bots.
In its letter to Rapino, the committee also said it wants information about the fees Ticketmaster charges customers. It also asked to learn more about dynamic pricing. ticket availability limits, restrictions on transferabiity and the company’s efforts to thwart bots and scammers.
Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department has launched an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, to look at whether the company has a monopoly in the market for concerts, including ticket purchasing, a source familiar with the matter told CNN last month. Last week, more than two dozen Taylor Swift fans sued Live Nation for “unlawful conduct” in the pop star’s chaotic tour sale, claiming the ticketing giant violated antitrust laws, among others.
Rapino and Live Nation have caught the ire of Congress before. Senator Amy Klobuchar criticized Ticketmaster in an open letter Rapino in the days following the ticket snafu, saying she has “serious concerns” about the company’s operations. The chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, wrote that complaints from Swift fans unable to buy tickets for her upcoming tour, in addition to criticism about high fees, suggests that the company “continues to abuse its market positions.”
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