Hidden Concert Ticket Fees Would Be Banned Under New Senate Bill
"Concealed surprise fees — nickel and diming Americans to distraction — must be stopped," says Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who's co-sponsoring the Junk Fee Protection Act.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) responded to President Joe Biden’s calls for fairness and transparency in ticketing fees by introducing the Junk Fee Prevention Act on Wednesday (March 22). While the proposed legislation goes beyond live music, it would transform how concert tickets are sold and attempts to reduce fees that inflate tickets’ face values.
“Concealed surprise fees — nickel and diming Americans to distraction — must be stopped,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
“Consumers are charged hidden fees when purchasing everything from flights to concert tickets,” added Whitehouse. “Our Junk Fee Prevention Act would provide consumers with the transparency they deserve when making a purchase.”
Biden urged Congress to pass legislation addressing “junk fees” during his Feb. 7 State of the Union address, pledging to cap fees on concert tickets and make companies disclose all-in prices upfront. “Americans are tired of being played for suckers,” he said. “Pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act so companies stop ripping us off.”
Blumenthal and Whitehouse’s proposed legislation would at least improve transparency. Ticketing companies would be required to “clearly and conspicuously” display the total price of a ticket with all fees included “in each advertisement and when a price is first shown to a consumer.”
While the legislation targets concert ticket fees and some re-sale tactics, it’s more than a reaction to Taylor Swift’s botched Eras Tour presale that prompted a Senate hearing on Ticketmaster’s business practices. The Junk Fee Prevention Act seeks to prevent companies from applying or advertising “any mandatory fees that are excessive or deceptive” for any good or service. It also targets fees for airline tickets and short-term housing such as hotels and vacation rentals, and would require airlines to seat parents next to their young children.
Transparency is a key theme of the Junk Fee Prevention Act. It includes a requirement to disclose the total number of tickets being offered for a concert, theater event, sporting event or other events “at a place of public amusement of any kind.” Both lawmakers and consumers have long complained that many concert tickets are held back for fan clubs, commercial partners like credit card companies and VIP packages.
Many of the changes sought in the Junk Fee Prevention Act are also found in the FAIR Ticketing Reforms, a set of “common sense” measures introduced on March 8 by a group of leading music companies including Live Nation, Universal Music Group and Red Light Management. FAIR Ticketing Reforms also calls for an end to speculative selling on secondary markets and mandatory all-in pricing. Unlike the Junk Fee Prevention Act, FAIR Ticketing Reforms also calls for stricter measures against automated bots and policing and fining resale sites that serve as a safe haven for scalpers.
Any person who violates the Junk Fee Prevention Act would be subject to the penalties of the Federal Trade Commission Act. A state attorney general can also bring a civil action if a violation affects residents of that state. In determining whether a fee is excessive, the bill asks the Federal Trade Commission or court to consider whether the fee is “reasonable and proportional” to the cost of a ticket and the reason for the fee. The FTC or court can also consider “any other factors determined appropriate.”
A mandatory fee is defined as any fee required to purchase a ticket, is not “reasonably avoidable,” is not expected to be included by a “reasonable consumer” or “any other fee or surcharge determined appropriate” by the FTC. Within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, the FTC would commence a rule making proceeding to consider whether and how the Federal Communications Commission should require disclosure of mandatory fees or prohibit companies from charging mandatory fees.