(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Gary S. Schaer and Fred Scalera to restructure the state’s ticket sale law was released Thursday from the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.
“For too long, box office services have run roughshod over fans looking to see their favorite band or comedian live, manipulating ticket prices and availability behind the scenes to generate the biggest margin of profit,” said Schaer (D-Passaic). “These changes will be a remedy for anyone who has ever seen a show sell out five seconds after the tickets went on sale only to find tickets available a week later at double the price.”
“Obtaining legitimate tickets to an event should not be an impossibility for anyone without insider connections or a means to game the system,” said Scalera (D-Essex). “By changing New Jersey’s ticketing law we are giving regular people – the true fans – back the ability to buy tickets without being given the runaround or paying through the nose.”
The sponsors said the measure had its genesis in a February 2009 ticketing fiasco surrounding a Bruce Springsteen concert series at the Meadowlands. According to news reports, some fans who logged-on to Ticketmaster’s website to purchase seats for the concert at the Izod Center encountered an error message when they attempted to pay for their tickets, then were redirected to a Ticketmaster-related resale site – TicketsNow.com – where the same tickets were available for purchase at a considerable mark-up.
The Schaer/Scalera bill (A-373) would rewrite the law regarding ticket sales in New Jersey. Under the bill, all advertisements for tickets – and the tickets themselves – would have to be marked with the initial price of the tickets as well as an itemized list of any and all taxes, service charges and other fees incurred. In addition, all ticket advertisements also would have to disclose the number of tickets available to the general public at the time tickets are first offered for sale to the public and if and when additional tickets may become available for sale.
Further, the measure would prohibit owners, operators and agents of entertainment venues from making initial ticket sales to themselves or their affiliates. They also would be barred from advertising, selling or offering to sell tickets not previously sold through an initial public sale. This prohibition also would extend to insiders, defined in the bill as employees, producers, promoters and performers who lawfully control any tickets prior to their release for sale to the general public. The bill would deter scalpers by prohibiting individuals from reselling, or purchasing with the intent to resell, tickets on or adjacent to the grounds of a particular venue.
Reselling a ticket purchased for personal use would still be permitted, provided the asking price does not exceed the printed price on the ticket. If a ticket purchase was made or facilitated through an individual or a company, the bill would give buyers the ability to receive a full refund if the event is canceled, the ticket does not grant them entry to the venue or if the ticket does not match its advertised description. It also would prevent ticket brokers from selling tickets not already in their possession at the time of sale unless explicitly stated at the outset of the transaction.
Additionally, the bill would prohibit the following:
· Giving or receiving anything of value in exchange for special treatment in obtaining tickets;
· The use of computer programs designed to circumvent or disable systems intended to limit the number of tickets purchased by one buyer or to ensure the equitable distribution of tickets;
·The use of technology to disguise the buyer’s identity;
· Placing further restrictions on purchasers, above and beyond those printed on the back of a ticket; and ·
The use, by ticket issuers, of any means of prohibiting or restricting the resale of tickets, including e-tickets that are non-transferrable or requiring certain documentation – like the purchasing credit card or purchaser’s ID – to enter the venue.
Violators would face both civil and criminal penalties. The civil penalties would carry fines of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for all subsequent offenses, as well as the potential for further action from the state attorney general. The criminal penalties would carry up to 18 months imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.
“Concert goers in New Jersey have been at the mercy of ticket brokers for too long,” said Scalera. “These changes will help level the playing field for fans and give them a fair chance at seats that aren’t in the nosebleeds.”
“We’re talking about fundamental fairness,” said Schaer. “People’s only choice for live entertainment shouldn’t be knowing someone in the business or shelling out big bucks for tickets.”
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.
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