Entertainment venues are looking to crack down on peddlers

Jan. 31—CONCORD — Saying sales of fake and inflated tickets have reached epidemic proportions, entertainment venue operators are asking the Legislature to impose civil penalties against ticket touts.

Peter Ramsay, president and chief executive of the Palace Theater in Manchester, said that since December 1, third-party vendors had made 361 ticket purchases from his venue and resold the tickets at a significant markup. In other cases, tickets purchased by customers are fake.

He spoke to a distraught woman who bought four tickets online to a show for $60 each — four times the $15 ticket price.

She turned up at the ticket counter only to find out that she had bought fake tickets.

“Patrons are furious. (In her case) I can’t refund her money because she bought it from a fake website,” Ramsey said.

“This is a real problem for both consumers and businesses.

The legislation would create a civil penalty for those who resell tickets for more than $1 above the price of admission, with some exceptions.

Third-party companies working on behalf of a charity could resell these tickets above their face value. Other online resale companies will have to make extensive disclosures to include a full refund guarantee if the customer is not completely satisfied.

The penalty for violation will be a full refund of the ticket price.

Some state senators considering the bill on Tuesday said it appeared to make it illegal for a person to sell their prized ticket for a profit at a private sale.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Bill Gannon, R-Sandown, said a fan of a football team making the Super Bowl should be able to sell that ticket at a premium if they decide not to go to the game.

“You mean I can’t sell and make money from my ticket here?” he asked Sen. Shannon Chandlee, D-Amherst, the lead sponsor of the bill (SB 201).

Chandley said the goal of her bill is to address a pressing issue for entertainment venues in New Hampshire.

“What’s happening is that tickets are being sold for far more than face value when there are actually tickets available at the box office,” Chandley told the Senate Commerce Committee. “They are not allowed to sell at this location.”

Ramsay said his team has identified 23 people across America who work for resale companies and routinely buy tickets at the palace.

“We have John Adams from Sacramento, California. He buys tickets about once a week, usually four or two at a time. He changes the ticket, takes the Palace Theater off the top and sends you the ticket,” Ramsay said.

Many of these resale companies copy the theater’s website so it looks like the consumer bought their tickets from the theater, he said.

“Many times in very fine print are the words ‘ticket reseller.’ If you didn’t notice that, you’d have no idea who you were dealing with,” Ramsay said.

Salvatore Prizio of the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord said some of these distributors buy “hundreds” of tickets and sell them for up to five times their face value.

In the past, these ticket resale companies have been able to get a spot on Google above the Capital Center’s own website, he said.

“Scalpers often offer tickets they don’t even own. If they can’t get the tickets from us, sometimes they will refund the buyer and sometimes they won’t,” Prizio said.

“Guess who they’re mad at? They’re not mad at the third party, they’re mad at the hall, which has nothing to do with it.”

A new scam, Prizio said, involves scalpers using stolen credit cards to buy tickets.

That could end up leaving the patron without a valid ticket after the credit card purchase is canceled and leaving the venue without a ticket to sell, he said.

“I think this is a first big step toward combating this parasitic aspect of our industry,” Prizio said of the bill.

Critic: Big would be helpful

Drew Klein, executive director of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, said the legislation would do little to prevent scalping.

Instead, it would expand the control of a limited number of companies over the sale of most entertainment tickets in the US

“The No. 1 problem right now is that you have massive consolidation within the industry between venues, concert promoters and ticket distributors,” Klein said.

“You’re going to further consolidate the industry, concentrate more power in the players that are already here and prevent anyone from selling something that they legitimately own,” Klein said.

For example, Cline said customers pay fees to legitimate distributors that can amount to 50 percent of the ticket price.

This bill would make it illegal for a consumer to resell their ticket and collect those fees, Klein said.

A US Senate hearing last week featured bipartisan condemnation and questions about whether the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation created too powerful a monopoly on the ticketing business.

In November, Ticketmaster canceled sales of tickets for a Taylor Swift concert when the website crashed. Distributors who had copied tickets then tried to resell them online for up to $20,000 apiece.

Sen. Denise Ricciardi, R-Bedford, said lawmakers may consider something less sweeping than that bill, such as making it illegal for any vendor to copy a company’s website.

“If we accept that and it’s not doable, it’s still going to happen,” Ricciardi said.

Sen. Dan Innis, R-Bradford, said patrons will always be willing to pay above market price to get a value ticket.

“I think we need to get to those who are legitimately cheating and abusing the system,” said Innis, who admitted his own soft spot for Lindsey Buckingham, the former Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist.

“Lindsey Buckingham’s show is sold out and there are tickets for three times the price. I see that, I’ll buy it.’

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