Restrictive paperless ticketing for Ticketmaster draws criticisms

Ticketmaster’s paperless ticketing system is the subject of a heated debate in which the company is being accused of taking ticket ownership away from consumers who have already purchased a ticket.

The Fan Freedom Project is fighting what they see as an anti-consumer policy, introduced in 2008, which links ticket purchases to the I.D. and credit card of the customer. Thus tickets purchased through this system are nontransferable.

Someone who bought the ticket and later realizes they cannot attend the event can no longer give it to a friend. Ticket buyers also lose the option of reselling their tickets via StubHub or Craigslist and can only do so through Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange website.

“I think it’s extraordinarily offensive,” said Jon Potter, president of the FFP. “It’s facetiously presented as helpful and convenient to consumers, and of course it is inconvenient and in fact devaluing.”

New York legislators passed a bill last year banning paperless ticketing, while legislators in Minnesota, New Jersey and North Carolina have introduced similar bills.

Potter said Ticketmaster is trying to monopolize the secondary ticket sale market by eliminating competition.

“They like to be in charge because when they’re in charge, they can charge you as much as they want,” Potter said. “They don’t want the market to work.”

Ticketmaster and Live Nation, which merged in 2010, defend their policy in a statement by spokeswoman Linda Bandov, arguing they limit scalpers from overcharging fans.

“(Resellers) are desperately lobbying to take tickets out of the hands of kids and soccer moms and sell them back to them at multiple times face value,” she said in the statement.

Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Michael Bublé are among Ticketmaster’s clients who only use paperless ticketing.

A Ticketmaster customer service representative, who only gave his first name Justin, said customers have called to complain, but there is little the company can do if the artist or sports team insists on paperless ticketing as the only distribution method.

“We have had customers in the past who have been a little bit upset. However, we do try to accommodate them as best we can,” Justin said.

The FFP president said the biggest losses incurred to students would be losing opportunities to buy cheap tickets from resellers, because Ticketmaster’s exchange site has a floor price, and not being able to resell tickets they purchased.

Northwestern students have mixed reactions to the policy, many mentioning inconvenience as their biggest complaint.

“If I were to buy the ticket and realize I couldn’t go, I’d lose money basically,” Weinberg freshman Kevin Kim said.

Kim said not having the insurance of being able to sell a ticket he can no longer use makes him less likely to buy it in the first place.

Helen Li said paperless ticketing would be more eco-friendly and discourage scalping, although she can see why restricted ticketing could be annoying.

“I think it’s pretty cool because I guess it would help the environment out a lot and also there wouldn’t be any scalping, so I think that would be very neat,” the Weinberg freshman said.

FFP president Potter said it’s not the paperless aspect that’s troubling.

“I have no issue with digital ticketing,” Potter said. “I’m sure the tech-savvy kids at Northwestern have no problem with digital ticketing, as long as it’s digital ticketing that lets you have the all of your ownership rights for tickets you already have.”

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