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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    Taking aim at Ticketmaster, ‘junk’ fees

    Concert-goer Jason Sattler of Groton shares his experience buying concert tickets during a news conference about so-called “junk fees” at the Garde Arts Center in New London on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Steve Sigel, executive director of the Garde Arts Center, talks about his experiences during a news conference about so-called “junk fees” at the Garde Arts Center in New London on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., left, and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, answer questions during a news conference about so-called “junk fees” at the Garde Arts Center in New London on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London ― An inveterate concertgoer, Jason Sattler is tired of paying the hidden “junk” fees that often inflate ticket prices.

    He’s no fan of Ticketmaster.

    Sattler, a 34-year-old Groton resident, made that clear here Monday at a news conference at the Garde Arts Center, where he joined U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., proponents of congressional efforts to promote transparency in event ticketing.

    Mayor Michael Passero and Steve Sigel, the arts center’s executive director, also attended.

    “I am seeing a band at Toad’s Place in New Haven later this year,” Sattler said. “The venue and their ticket provider used ‘all-in’ pricing, which told me the price was $48 out the door.”

    The next night, he said, he’s seeing another band at the TD Garden in Boston, which has an exclusive contract with Ticketmaster. That ticket’s costing him $180.

    “Given the band’s popularity, I expected this,” Sattler said. “What I did not expect was the $41.10 in fees that showed up when I went to check out. Exclusive contracts with venues allow Ticketmaster to manipulate the market however they see fit. It removes any competition for them.”

    Courtney, who said Sattler’s among hundreds of constituents who’ve registered complaints about junk fees with his office, said the issue frustrates just about everyone at the grassroots level, driving up the cost of basic goods and services, not just concerts.

    “It’s rampant, and it’s pervasive,” Blumenthal said, noting that President Joe Biden devoted attention to it during his State of the Union address in February.

    Last month, by a vote of 388 to 24, the House of Representatives passed the “Ticket Act,” which requires sellers of tickets to concerts, performances, sporting events and similar activities to disclose all fees included in a ticket price ― in advertising, at the beginning of a transaction and before the selection of a ticket.

    Currently, ticket sellers often disclose fees only at the checkout stage of a transaction.

    The bill, which Courtney co-sponsored, was forwarded to the Senate for its consideration.

    In 2023, Blumenthal introduced in the Senate the “Junk Fee Prevention Act,” a measure establishing requirements regarding fees charged by such businesses as hotels and others providing short-term lodging, ticketing services, internet service, mobile service or video programming. The bill prohibits the charging of excessive or deceptive mandatory fees and, in the case of internet or mobile service providers, the charging of unreasonable termination fees.

    Courtney signed on to a version of the bill introduced in the House.

    Blumenthal said Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, controls 80% of the country’s entertainment venues, which enables it to dictate terms to artists, promoters and consumers.

    “They’re the only one to profit” from the prices they manipulate, he said.

    The U.S. Department of Justice and more than two-dozen states and Washington, D.C., filed an antitrust lawsuit last month seeking to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster for illegally monopolizing the live music industry. Blumenthal said the bills in Congress would benefit consumers while the litigation plays out.

    “If need be, we will target Ticketmaster,” he said.

    Sigel, the Garde’s executive director, said he’s heard of ticket-buyers paying several times the face value of a ticket, and advised anyone with questions about pricing to contact the theater to find out whether they’re being scammed.

    Sattler, the Groton concertgoer, said music fans must be put before profits.

    “Without us, our favorite artists could fail,” he said. “And if they fail, they may not be there to inspire the next generation.”

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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