Professional sports teams and promoters, including Live Nation Entertainment, have strongly opposed the bill in Georgia that would protect consumers’ rights to tickets they purchased. Industry officials and lobbyists showed up in force at a pair of committee hearings in Georgia this week, hoping to stop lawmakers from passing the bill.
Senate Bill 495 was introduced on February 10, sponsored by Sens Matt Brass (R), Jeff Mullis (R), Michael Dugan (R), Lee Anderson (R), Steve Gooch (R), Randy Robertson ( R), John Albers (R) and Greg Dolezal (R). House Bill 998 is sponsored by Kasey Carpenter (R), Martin Momtahan (D), Spencer Frye (D), J Collins (R) and Joseph Gullet (R). Both introduce a consumer choice requirement into the format in which a ticket is issued by event operators, requiring the option of freely transferable tickets – rather than locked to a mobile-only or paperless ticketing system controlled by the seller. If passed, Georgia will join states like New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Utah and Virginia that already have such consumer protection laws. A recent national poll showed overwhelming support for such measures among consumers.
Georgia’s southern neighbor Florida is also considering similar legislation this session, which has similar support in a poll of adults there.
At the House Creative Arts & Entertainment Committee’s public hearing discussing the bill on Thursday, Rep. Carpenter – who chairs that committee – called the use of restrictive ticketing systems designed to eliminate competition a “money grab”. Class A” by ticketing companies, following testimony from those who oppose the bill as well as those who support it. The committee tabled the discussion without deciding on the bill.
“It’s actually a very simple bill,” StubHub government relations manager Laura Dooley said in testimony earlier this week before the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. . “This is a bill about who should have decision-making power… [these bills] put that decision-making power in the hands of the consumer, not the place, team, or artist who first sold them.
“Once that ticket has been rightly and legally purchased, the consumer, in our view, should have a choice,” she continued. “By inserting choice into the ticket purchase transaction, you preserve a free market and ensure that competitors can continue to operate in a market that benefits from competition, and that’s a good thing from the point of view of of the consumer.”
Companies that benefit from restrictive ticketing systems, however, disagree. In a letter submitted late last month opposing the measure, representatives from the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, Hawks, United, Truist Park, Mercedes Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena all strongly opposed the bills, making echoed similar resistance to bills being introduced requiring consumer choice across the country. Their representatives repeated many of the same talking points in person this week, as did representatives from Live Nation Entertainment, as House and Senate committees heard testimony on the legislation.
Rather than protecting consumer choice, opponents of the bill are trying to frame it as dangerous to both event safety and the live event industry in the state. They claimed, among other things, that the bill would be “scalper-friendly”, prevent them from blocking purchases from customers “who have financially defrauded our organizations”, stop unpaid “guerrilla marketing campaigns” by non-sponsors and hinder their ability to create special thematic sections. Most notably, they claim that the inability to lock consumers into a mobile-only ticketing system with no freedom to choose another format would result in some major tours completely ignoring the state of Georgia. (Their letter is included below)
Claims that performers will skip states that require consumer choice in ticket formats are frequently cited when event operators oppose consumer-friendly ticketing reform. It was implemented in Ontario when lawmakers required event operators to disclose the number of tickets available to the public versus tickets withheld, as if acts were skipping Canada’s largest city. The threat that artists will ignore Georgia, home to Atlanta and its six million people, rings equally hollow.
During the hearing, it was pointed out that StubHub partners with state organizations — including the Braves and the University of Georgia — as an official partner. But she pointed out that her company believes it benefits consumers when companies like StubHub compete for their business, rather than using restrictive technologies to prevent that competition, which mobile-only ticketing systems are. designed to do.
“We are prepared to go against our partners on this issue to ensure tickets can be sold on the platform consumers choose,” Dooley said. “As a company, we believe we are going to win. We don’t want to force customers to use us, we want them to choose them to use us.
Video of testimony presented to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities this week is embedded below:
Senate Committee on Regulated Utilities and Industries – 3/7/2022 from the Georgia State Senate on Vimeo.
Video of testimony presented to the House Creative Arts & Entertainment Committee is embedded below:
Agriculture & Consumerism and Creative Arts & Entertainment 03.10.22 from the Georgia House of Representatives on Vimeo.
The full letter from the venue and sports team is included below (in a screenshot of the document as presented to the committee).