Ticketmaster says it will tell buyers real ticket costs only if required

FILE PHOTO: The logo for Live Nation Entertainment is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 3, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ticketmaster and other online ticketing companies said on Wednesday they support rules to require upfront disclosure of all the fees tacked on to concert and sporting-events tickets, but only if all ticket sellers are required to do so by law.

The $9 billion ticketing industry has frustrated American consumers with hidden fees for years. A Government Accountability Office study found in 2018 that fees can equal as much as 37% of a ticket’s face value.

In a memo announcing a congressional hearing, lawmakers also noted complaints about industry practices like restrictions on transfers, websites which appear to be for a venue but are not, and limited ticket availability because, for example, tickets are sold at pre-sales before the general public may buy.

Amy Howe, chief operating officer of Ticketmaster, told a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday that her company, a division of Live Nation Entertainment Inc, would support a move to disclose all fees upfront but only if it is mandated that all companies do so.

Pressed on the issue by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Howe argued that Ticketmaster could not do it without all companies being required to make the disclosure because it would make her company’s tickets look relatively more expensive.

At the hearing, Pallone noted the sheer size of the online ticket market. “Every day, millions of Americans shop on the internet for tickets for live events like sporting events and concerts,” he said. “In some ways, the internet has made this experience more convenient, but it has also led to consumers being ripped off as they try to navigate a ticketing industry that for too long has operated in the dark.”

Pallone, along with Representative Bill Pascrell and Senator Richard Blumenthal, re-introduced a bill last spring to address some of the biggest complaints about the primary and secondary ticketing market, including a measure to require the disclosure of all fees at the time a ticket is selected for purchase.

StubHub, which is owned by eBay Inc, tried all-in pricing but abandoned the practice in 2015 after less than two years because rivals’ tickets appeared to be cheaper and so its market share diminished.

StubHub General Counsel Stephanie Burns said it still gives customers an option to see the final price as they shop.

Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis