February 26, 2020 / 7:40 PM / a month ago

CORRECTED-Ticketmaster says it will only tell buyers real ticket costs if required

(In 4th paragraph, corrects title of Amy Howe to chief operating officer, not chief executive)

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Ticketmaster and other online ticketing companies said Wednesday they support rules to require upfront disclosure of all the fees tacked on to concert and sporting events tickets, but only if all ticket sellers are required to do so by law.

The $9 billion ticketing industry has frustrated American consumers with hidden fees for years. A Government Accountability Office study found in 2018 that fees can equal as much as 37 percent of a ticket's face value.

In a memo announcing the hearing, lawmakers also noted complaints about industry practices like restrictions on transfers, websites which appear to be for a venue but are not, and limited ticket availability because, for example, tickets are sold at pre-sales before the general public may buy.

Amy Howe, chief operating officer of Ticketmaster, told a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that her company, a division of Live Nation, would support a move to disclose all fees upfront but only if it is mandated that all companies do it.

Pressed on the issue by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Howe argued that Ticketmaster could not do it without all companies being required to make the disclosure because it would make her company's tickets look relatively more expensive.

Pallone, along with Representative Bill Pascrell and Senator Richard Blumenthal, re-introduced a bill last spring to address some of the biggest complaints about the primary and secondary ticketing market, including a measure to require the disclosure of all fees at the time a ticket is selected for purchase.

StubHub, which is owned by eBay, tried all-in pricing but abandoned the practice in 2015 after less than two years because rivals' tickets appeared to be cheaper and so their market share diminished.

StubHub General Counsel Stephanie Burns said it still gives customers an option to see the final price as they shop.

Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster and has contracts for roughly 80 percent of big music venues, recently ran afoul of the Justice Department.

The department extended its oversight of a 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in December because it violated an agreement about past unfair practices.

Reporting by Diane Bartz Editing by Nick Zieminski

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