May 9, 2024 - News

Maryland cracks down on fake concert tickets and junk fees

Taylor Swift performs during the Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour at FedExField on July 11, 2018 in Landover, Maryland.

Taylor Swift greets fans at FedEx Field in Maryland. Photo: Jason Kempin/TAS18/Getty Images for TAS

Concert prices can be shockingly high, but a new Maryland law will create more transparency around ticket sales for live entertainment and in some cases help drive down costs.

Why it matters: Popular shows have become luxury experiences for the uber-wealthy — and wallet-breaking for average consumers — but tighter regulation of the ticketing process can help level the playing field for artists and fans.

Driving the news: Gov. Wes Moore signed off Thursday on an anti-scalping law that makes it illegal for resale sites like StubHub or VividSeats to charge sneaky junk fees, and bans the sale of "speculative tickets."

  • The law, championed by major venues and artist coalitions, goes into effect July 1.

How it works: There's no cap on fees, but the law clarifies that resellers must be transparent throughout the process, similar to D.C. restaurants — no surprises come payment.

  • It also makes certain requirements for refunds, like in the case of show cancellations.

Zoom in: Speculative tickets, often offered by scalpers before sales are live, can create a false sense of scarcity ("only two left!") and drive up market prices when legit tickets come online. Plus, some are actually fake.

  • Under the legislation, resale platforms that sell or offer specs could face penalties of up to $10,000 for the first infraction and $25,000 for each additional.
  • Maryland is the first state to implement such penalties, and the second to ban specs altogether behind Nevada.

The big picture: Maryland's bill is part of a national reckoning around flaws in the ticketing system—thanks in large part to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticketing fiasco, which exposed problematic practices in the resale industry like scalper bots and junk fees.

  • Some Americans are flying across the pond to catch Swift's European leg of her tour, where ticket prices are significantly cheaper. One reason: more regulation, including laws limiting how high tickets can be marked up beyond face value.

Stunning stat: While it's possible to find good deals, resale tickets in the U.S. can also be listed for 500 times the original cost.

  • VIP tickets for the sold-out All Things Go music festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion were listed anywhere from $1,210 to over $12,000 on StubHub. The venue sold them for $225.

What they're saying: Bethesda-based I.M.P., which operates Merriweather and worked with legislators on the bill, has to turn away fans with fake tickets at every show, communications director Audrey Fix-Schaefer tells Axios.

  • Legit resale sites guarantee tickets and will issue refunds. But Fix-Schaefer points out that's just one expense. "People fly in, get hotels, miss work, they're embarrassed and angry — that's not reimbursed."

The other side: The law faced opposition from major resale companies and some venues. Also, consumer interest groups like Protect Ticket Rights argue that among other things, stricter regulations could hurt fans looking to sell their tickets on the secondary market or make it harder to get cheap tickets.

The intrigue: The original Maryland legislation mirrored Europe and proposed capping resale tickets at face value, which would have made it the most aggressive legislation in the country. It passed in the House but stalled in the Senate.

What's ahead: A study will be conducted under the new law by the AG's Consumer Protection Division, due in December, that legislators may use to push for a cap.

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