Buying concert tickets could become an easier, more straightforward process after the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce passed the Speculative Ticketing Oversight and Prohibition (STOP) Act on Wednesday (Dec. 6). The bill is now eligible for a vote by the full House.
The STOP Act, which Rep. Gus Bilirakus (R-Fla.) called the “biggest ticket reform in years,” does far more than prevent speculative ticketing, though. The bill also addresses a range of deceptive ticketing practices and transparency issues that perplex, aggravate and annoy consumers.
For starters, the bill requires ticket sellers to conspicuously show the final ticket price at the beginning of the purchase process rather than at check-out. “The first price that you see when you order the ticket is the price that you pay — not a penny more,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) during Wednesday’s hearing.
The bill also ensures ticket buyers can get refunds when concerts are cancelled or postponed. Ticket buyers will have the option of receiving a full refund or, subject to availability, a replacement ticket if the event is postponed and rescheduled in the same or a “comparable” location.
“Consumers should not be left on the hook if an event is canceled or postponed and should have the option to receive a full refund or comparable ticket to a rescheduled show or game,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (C-NJ).
The STOP Act also helps consumers know if they’re buying a ticket from the primary seller or a secondary marketplace. The bill would require ticket sellers to provide buyers with a “a clear and conspicuous statement” that the provider is engaged in the secondary sale of the ticket. In addition, the secondary ticket marketplace cannot state that it is “affiliated with or endorsed by a venue, team, or artist” unless a partnership agreement exists.
Deceptive websites that could mislead ticket buyers are also banned. Ticket providers are prevented from using a domain name or subdomain that contains the name of a specific team, league, venue, performance or artist — including “substantially similar” and misspelled names — unless authorized by the owner of the name. Ticket sellers must also make their refund policies known up front.
Finally, as the name of the bill implies, the STOP Act bans speculative ticketing, in effect barringprimary and secondary ticketing marketplaces from selling tickets they do not possess.
For its part, Live Nation, owner of the country’s largest ticketing company, Ticketmaster, welcomes the new measures. “We’ve long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, along with other measures including banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites that trick fans,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll continue working with policymakers, advocating for even stronger reforms and enforcement to stop predatory practices that hurt fans and artists.”
Even if the STOP Act passes in the full House, the U.S. Senate must pass a version of the bill for it to become law. Two similar bills have already been introduced in the Senate. Like the STOP Act, the TICKET Act, introduced by Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), would prevent hidden ticket fees, require upfront pricing and stop speculative ticket selling. The Unlocking Ticketing Markets Act, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would limit exclusive, multi-year ticketing contracts in live entertainment.