Ticketmaster Says It 'Welcomes' Federal Trade Commission Workshop on Ticketing

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Ticketmaster

In a statement, Ticketmaster says FTC event "is an industry wide workshop - not a probe."

Ticketmaster officials are downplaying news that the Federal Trade Commission is holding a public workshop on ticketing, releasing a statement late Thursday (Oct. 4) reminding the public that the event is not an FTC investigation. "To be clear," a statement from Ticketmaster reads, "This is an industry wide workshop - not a probe."

Officials with the ticketing giant are hoping to distance the meeting at the FTC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., from an investigative report on Ticketmaster's resale business, saying the March 27, 2019, workshop is similar to recent consumer educational events, including a June 2018 FTC workshop on cryptocurrency and a December 2017 workshop on consumer privacy. 

"Ticketmaster welcomes and looks forward to participating in the FTC workshop on online ticketing in March 2019," the company wrote in a press release. "We encourage other ticketing companies to take part in educating consumers and lawmakers on the opportunities and challenges in the ticketing industry and to join us in further action to improve the consumer ticket buying experience, including aggressive enforcement of the BOTS Act, the elimination of speculative ticket sales and restrictions on deceptive marketing and misleading ticketing URLs."

The damage-control effort likely had a positive effect on Live Nation's stock price, which had been down as low as 5.5 percent following initial reports about the FTC workshop but made a small rebound in the late afternoon to close at $52.68, down 3.9 percent from Wednesday's close of $54.83.

The FTC's announcement follows a news story by the Toronto Sun and the CBC that examined Ticketmaster's resale business and included allegations that the company was enabling high-volume secondary ticket sales through programs like TradeDesk. Ticketmaster President Jared Smith later pushed back on the report, saying the company does not provide preference to scalpers and professional resellers, but he acknowledged that the ticket seller could do a better job policing its resale business, especially after a Ticketmaster rep was caught on camera saying users of its TradeDesk platform often buy up tickets for resale using multiple TM accounts.

"We don't condone it," Smith told Billboard in reaction to the video, "and we are going to make sure that we don't have people that are clearly violating our policies."

It's unclear if the workshop is officially related to the TradeDesk story. In an announcement Thursday detailing the 2019 workshop, a press release from the agency simply states, "The online event ticket industry has been a frequent topic of consumer and competitor complaints, and FTC staff is seeking public input in advance of the workshop, including possible discussion topics and potential participants."

The 2019 workshop will include FTC commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and "bring together a variety of stakeholders, including industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, academics and government officials, to discuss problematic practices in the online event ticket marketplace."

The workshop follows a May 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office examining the ticketing business, which found that consumers are often at a disadvantage against professional resellers when it comes to buying tickets during a high-demand ticket sale. The report also backed calls for more disclosure on ticket availability and fees.

"The workshop will discuss the current state of the online event ticket marketplace, shed light on industry-wide advertising and pricing issues, and explore ways to address deception beyond traditional law enforcement," the release explains.

Members of the public can submit comments for the workshop here. The deadline to submit is Dec. 5. The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC, and will be webcast live on the FTC’s website.