U.S., Canadian lawmakers eager to talk with Ticketmaster about refund policies

It’s not just lawmakers in New York looking for answers from Ticketmaster this week. 

In addition to a state senator calling on New York’s attorney general to investigate the giant’s several revisions and reiterations and explanations on its ticket refund policy this week, as thousands of shows are being canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers in California and New Jersey are also demanding information. 

In a letter sent Friday, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) ask Ticketmaster President Amy Howe and Live Nation President Michael Rapino to explain the company’s actions this week. 

“As the United States is battling the worst outbreak of this virus in the world, the effect on regular Americans has been cataclysmic,” they write. “Nearly 20 million working Americans have filed for unemployment, with those tragic numbers expected to climb… But instead of helping them lift that burden, your company has decided to make it heavier. Ticketmaster’s webpage announces at the top in bold red letters that ‘Refunds are available if your event is canceled,’ which gives fans no avenues to get their money back for events that have been indefinitely postponed… You claim that Ticketmaster’s refund policy was not changed but clarified is so absurd it insults the intelligence of your customers. Furthermore, given your enormous power over the marketplace, your company’s assertions that this inability to obtain a full refund for postponed events (and) shows rings hollower than a drum. In effect, your company is holding hostage money that could constitute a rent check, electric bill, or groceries to feed children.” 

It must be noted that, by Friday night, Ticketmaster and AEG both announced they would begin offering a mechanism for refunding money for postponed events as well, giving customers 30 days from the time a postponement announcement was made to make such a request. That policy goes into effect on May 1. 

Following that announcement, New York state Senator James Skoufis said he was glad for the revision, but his team will continue its investigation into ticketing companies and their practices. “I look forward to examining exactly what transpired with Ticketmaster’s policy change as well as receiving documents we have requested and obtaining their testimony at our forthcoming hearing.”

Canadian lawmakers are equally appalled and are demanding answers. 

Brian Masse, representing Windsor West as the NDP member of Parliament, is calling on the Competition Bureau and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains to start investigations into the company’s actions. Masse also notes that the Competition Bureau has twice previously neglected to take up investigations into Ticketmaster’s practices that help scalpers resell concert tickets, CBC reports. 

“We need to drop the gloves this time to protect consumers,” he said. 

Michelle Rempel Garner, a Conservative MP from Calgary Nose Hill, wants more consumer protection. 

She told the CBC that her office has been flooded with constituent calls over the refund issue., but she’s sympathetic to the cash-strapped reality that faces the concert industry at the moment. She suggests that this isn’t the time to demand immediate refunds for all events still in limbo. 

“I don’t want to sound like I’m arguing for or against, you know, either consumers or a corporation,” she told the CBC. “I’m just saying that there’s a broader economic problem here that we have to be seized with, because you and I could have this conversation in so many different aspects.”

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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