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Senate introduces legislation addressing fan frustration over ticket sales

Fans may soon get a reprieve from the ticket-buying process, which many have described as daunting and at times unfair.
Fans stand in line at Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023 in Inglewood, Calif.
A line at Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour on Sept. 1 in Inglewood, Calif.Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation Friday aimed at correcting flaws in the ticketing industry and increasing transparency for patrons of live events. 

The bill, called the Fans First Act, seeks to address three main issues: price transparency, consumer protection and bad actors seeking to resell tickets at exorbitant prices. 

Consumer complaints against the industry, and with Ticketmaster in particular, came to a head in late 2022 when the ticketing giant struggled to keep up with the high demand for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Ticketmaster was subsequently sued by Swift fans who alleged the company engaged in anticompetitive practices and permitted scalpers to buy tickets. The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing to examine Ticketmaster’s outsize role in the industry. 

The act would require all ticket sellers and resellers to disclose a ticket's total cost, including fees. It would also require a breakdown of the ticket price.

“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists, or venues,” Cornyn said in a statement. “This legislation would rebuild trust in the ticketing system by cracking down on bots and others who take advantage of consumers through price gouging and other predatory practices and increase price transparency for ticket purchasers.”

The bill would work in tandem with existing efforts to reform live event ticketing, including the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, which was introduced in 2016 to prohibit scalpers from using software to buy high volumes of tickets. 

The legislation would strengthen the BOTS Act by further prohibiting the use of bots to buy tickets online. Sellers and resellers would also be required to provide proof of purchase within 24 hours and refund buyers in the event of a cancellation. 

A man looking for a ticket outside a Taylor Swift concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on May 26, 2023.
A man looking for a ticket outside a Taylor Swift concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on May 26.Anthony Behar / Sipa USA via AP file

The Fans First Act also seeks to restrict scalpers by preventing the use of deceptive websites and the sale of “spec” tickets — or tickets advertised by resellers that they don’t actually possess. Resellers that engage in illegal practices will also be hit with civil penalties. 

The six senators co-sponsoring the bill are: John Cornyn, R-Texas; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Peter Welch, D-Vt.

“The Fans First Act will help protect American consumers from the financial harms of price gouging by banning speculative tickets and deceptive URLs, in addition to requiring all-in pricing be listed up front,” Welch in a press release. “This legislation will strengthen consumer protection by establishing refund requirements for customers impacted by fraud, helping to ensure that everyone can enjoy live events without worrying about the security of their ticket.”

Live Nation issued its support for the bill, saying the company welcomes "legislation that brings positive reform to live event ticketing."

“We believe it’s critical Congress acts to protect fans and artists from predatory resale practices, and have long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites, as well as other measures," the company said in an email statement to NBC News. "We look forward to our continued work with policymakers to advocate for even stronger reforms and enforcement.”