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Congress to Investigate Concert Ticket Companies Accused of "Unfair Practices"

A group of bipartisan lawmakers has launched a formal investigation into half a dozen ticket vendors, alleging concerns over "potentially unfair and fraudulent practices" from consumer complaints and other sources, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), StubHub, Vivid Seats , TicketNetwork and Tickets.com were mailed Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, describing a series of "problematic practices and trends in the ticketing industry".

"In particular," the letter states, "these practices and trends include: 1) high, hidden fees; 2) lack of transparency in the limited availability of tickets; 3) speculative tickets that harm unsuspecting consumers; 4) white label ticket websites that use practices that deceive consumers, and 5) tickets that can not be transferred or resold, limiting consumer options. "

The letter follows a series Congressional action in 2016 aimed at ensuring "fairness and transparency" in the ticket market, including the introduction of the "Better On-line Ticket Sales Act" and the initiation of an industry sector inquiry by the Government Accountability Office ( GAO) which was completed in April 2018.

The GAO report outlined a number of consumer protection issues, the impact The industry, including professional resellers or brokers, has a "competitive advantage" over consumers when it comes to buying tickets once they go on sale. Many, according to the report, use automated "bots" to quickly buy tickets before reselling them to a "substantial mark-up".

The report also found that many ticket sites did not clearly disclose the charges to consumers or "disclosed afterwards" users entered payment information. "

The GAO also reviewed a number of proposed remedies, including the introduction of price caps, non-transferable tickets and the addition of ticketing disclosure requirements. Legislation called for consumers to engage with consumer protection issues in the market in July 2018 ,

Despite ongoing bipartisan efforts and federal action, consumers are still confronted with a variety of problematic practices in letters to ticket companies, many of which are related to "a lack of transparency and fairness, which gives buyers an unfair advantage procures when trying to buy tickets in the current market.

The letters are signed by the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone Jr., and Republican leader Greg Walden; Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Supervision and Investigations Diana DeGette and Republican Chair Brett Guthrie; Jan Schakowsky and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chairmen of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Trade,

Live Nation, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), StubHub, and Tickets.com did not immediately respond to a request for comments.

TicketNetwork submitted the following statement to Gizmodo:

TicketNetwork thanks the committee for its commitment to providing a fair and impartial insight into the live event ticketing industry. For too long, anti-competitive and opaque practices by some companies have led to confusion and fears among consumers that are damaging the entire live event ecosystem. We look forward to joining the other invited companies and providing insights to the committee. We are confident that this process can help pave the way for a more equitable, transparent and robust live event ticketing market for consumers and businesses.

Stan Chia, CEO of Vivid Seats, said in a statement:

"At Vivid Seats Our focus is always on the fan. That's why we welcome the committee's investigation into the ticketing industry and look forward to working with the committee during this process. We support Congress's efforts to protect consumers' freedom to buy, sell and transfer their purchased tickets at will, without undue restrictions. Anti-competitive practices in the ticketing industry contribute to a lack of transparency in the availability and pricing of tickets, and this research will hopefully result in Congress taking steps to protect consumer rights and competition in the ticket market improve.

We will be updated with additional answers by the companies as soon as we receive them.

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