Tennessee’s attorney general said he would look into whether the live-events site Ticketmaster violated consumers’ rights and antitrust regulations, citing glitches on the platform during the sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour that left some fans stranded in hours-long virtual queues.
“We are concerned about this very dominant market player, and we want to make sure that they’re treating consumers right and that people are receiving a fair opportunity to purchase the tickets that clearly matter a great deal to them,” Skrmetti said of Ticketmaster during a news conference Wednesday, according to a transcript provided by his office.
“We just need to take a closer look,” he added. In an email, Elizabeth Lane, the press secretary for the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General, said, “I can confirm our Consumer Protection team is looking into the complaints.”
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is concerned about consumer complaints related to @Ticketmaster’s pre-sale of @taylorswift13 concert tickets. He and his Consumer Protection team will use every available tool to ensure that no consumer protection laws were violated.— TN Attorney General (@AGTennessee) November 16, 2022
The chaos over sales of Swift tickets caused some politicians to raise questions about the 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and the event company Live Nation, amid allegations by consumer rights groups that the company abused its dominant position in the market. Skrmetti, who said his office had “previously looked into antitrust allegations involving Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” stressed that neither company has been accused of misconduct.
In an email to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Ticketmaster shared a link to an online statement in which the company said “the staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes drove unprecedented traffic on our site,” forcing it to slow “down some sales” and push “back others to stabilize the systems.”
Ticketmaster launched the sale of tickets to “Eras” in the United States on Tuesday, but many fans who visited the platform to secure coveted spots said they experienced technical glitches, long wait times and higher-than-expected ticket prices. Some said they were unable to buy tickets.
Some fans told The Post that they waited hours in a virtual queue, only to receive an error message.
In its statement, Ticketmaster said it estimated that about 15 percent of “interactions across the site experienced issues,” including “passcode validation errors that caused fans to lose tickets they had carted.”
Skrmetti, who serves Swift’s home state, said Ticketmaster should have been better prepared for the surge in demand and wondered whether “because they have such a dominant market position, they felt like they didn’t need to worry about that.”
In particular, Skrmetti highlighted that consumers signed up for presale codes that promised fast and easy access to tickets, but that preferential service did not appear to materialize. “We need to look into exactly what was promised and whether that was provided,” he said.
Skrmetti is not the only politician calling for more scrutiny of possible antitrust violations. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that “Ticketmaster is a monopoly” that should be broken up.
Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 15, 2022
Break them up.
The U.S. Justice Department approved Ticketmaster’s merger with Live Nation in 2010 after the companies agreed to meet certain conditions, including for Ticketmaster to license its ticketing software to competitors. At the time, the merger was criticized by some artists and activists, who said it would give Ticketmaster the ability to increase fees endlessly. But the Justice Department argued that the terms of the merger would “protect competition for primary ticketing, which will in turn maintain incentives for innovation and discounting.”
More than a decade later, some antitrust and consumer groups say the merger has created a harmful monopoly. Several of these groups launched a campaign last month aimed at convincing the Justice Department to “investigate and unwind” the merger, accusing Ticketmaster of using its dominant position in the live-events and ticketing market to “hike up ticket prices, tack on expensive junk fees, and exploit artists, independent venues, and fans.”
Skrmetti on Wednesday said the Justice Department’s agreement with Ticketmaster and Live Nation “was theoretically going to reduce the antitrust risks.”
But, he continued, “if we’re seeing a situation where people are trying to use the service and aren’t getting the product that they’ve paid for, the product that they were promised, that could be an indicator that there’s not enough competition in the market.”
Tatum Hunter contributed to this report.