Tennessee AG probing Ticketmaster over botched Taylor Swift ticket rollout

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(WASHINGTON) — The Tennessee attorney general said he is looking into whether consumer protection laws were violated after Ticketmaster botched the rollout of Taylor Swift concert tickets.

“We have received complaints about the sale process, and we have previously looked into antitrust allegations involving Ticketmaster and Live Nation. We want to make sure that there are no issues here that merit legal response,” Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti told reporters Wednesday, according to a transcript of the press conference obtained by ABC News.

Swift is hitting the road for the first time since the pandemic started on her “Eras Tour” and demand for tickets including the three shows in Nashville, Tennessee, have never been higher. Users reported waiting in a virtual line for hours without being able to purchase tickets when it was their turn. Ticketmaster has since cancelled Friday’s regular sale of tickets due to “ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory.”

Skrmetti said there are a few specific issues his office is looking at, in particular the representations made with the presale code fans were given to buy tickets with.

“If there were any representations made with respect to the process in advance, that could be an issue,” he said. “We’re talking about a company with an extremely dominant market share.”

Under a previous settlement with Ticketmaster, it allows the attorney general to get information that is otherwise not public regarding the company’s business practices. He did say it was worth looking at whether or not Ticketmaster and Live Nation are a monopoly.

“I know the Department of Justice and the states took a hard look at the Ticketmaster Live Nation merger and secured a consent decree that was theoretically going to reduce the antitrust risks,” he said. “If we’re seeing a situation where people are trying to use the service and aren’t getting the product that they’ve paid for, the product that they were promised, that could be an indicator that there’s not enough competition in the market. We just need to take a closer look.”

Ticketmaster responded Thursday to the criticisms it has faced over its handling of the Verified Fan presale, which opened earlier this week and noted that over 2 million tickets were sold in a single day for Swift’s shows on Tuesday.

“The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world – that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor’s on sale it wasn’t. But we’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand on sales, which continue to test new limits,” the statement said.

Ticketmaster said that it would “improve the experience and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Ticketmaster also canceled the Friday public sale of “Eras Tour” due “to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged in 2010 and in 2019 the company paid fines pertaining to the company violating the agreed upon terms of DOJ consent decree during the final merger.

“Despite the prohibitions in the Final Judgment, Live Nation repeatedly and over the course of several years engaged in conduct that, in the Department’s view, violated the Final Judgment,” a press release by DOJ said in 2019. “To put a stop to this conduct and to remove any doubt about defendants’ obligations under the Final Judgment going forward, the Department and Live Nation have agreed to modify the Final Judgment to make clear that such conduct is prohibited.”

As part of the updated 2019 settlement, the company agreed to have the Justice Department’s antitrust division monitor the companies’ practices.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was also critical of the merger after seeing reports people couldn’t get tickets to Swift shows.

“Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in,” she tweeted Tuesday. “Break them up.”

If the company was found to be in violation of consumer protection laws, they could be the subject of fines and a court order to not engage in similar practices.

“This is a company that we’ve looked at in the past,” Skrmetti said. “This is a company that’s been the subject of numerous complaints going back decades. And there may be other people who are interested, but this is something that we are interested in to make sure that they’re treating consumers fairly.”

The reason Skrmetti is doing this, he said, is because music is an important part of the local economy.

“It’s not just a matter of fans who are or being harmed by this potentially. There are a lot of people involved in concert production and concert promotion in this area,” he said. “The ramifications of it are more significant here than elsewhere. The other thing is there are different AGs with different bandwidths and different opportunities.”

Attorney General Skrmetti said he is “curious” about the company’s planning given the widespread announcement of the tour.

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