Should NH ban bots and regulate ticket resales?
If you bought tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour last year, you probably battled bots on Ticketmaster or paid a reseller thousands over face value. Bots and scalpers don’t just impact international popstars, however; artists, venues, and fans in New Hampshire are getting scammed. Now the New Hampshire Legislature is considering how – and if – the state can fight back.
On January 16 the Senate Commerce Committee will host a public hearing on SB 328, a bill that takes on deceptive ticket sales.
Ticket resellers defraud NH consumers, venues
Last year representatives from the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, the Palace Theatre in Manchester, and the Nashua Center for the Arts all testified before the House and Senate about lost revenue and unusable tickets.
In some cases, websites posing as legitimate resellers defraud customers by selling fake tickets. The customer shows up to the venue only to discover they don’t have a seat and the venue doesn’t have their money for a refund.
In other cases websites use bots to monitor what tickets are for sale at a venue. A bot purchases a ticket only after collecting payment from an individual—but there’s no guarantee the bot can purchase the exact seat the reseller advertised. For very popular events, like the Eras tour, bots may buy a large block of tickets ahead of time to push up resale prices.
Scammers may also use stolen credit card numbers to buy and resell tickets. The credit card company will contact the venue to cancel the ticket purchase after they find out the card is stolen, but there’s no way to notify the customers that bought tickets off the scammer. These ticketholders probably will not find out their tickets are cancelled until they show up to the venue.
Lastly, even if a reseller sells a customer a valid ticket, the customer will almost certainly pay a large mark-up, many times the face value of the ticket without any benefit to the venue.
Sal Prizio, the Executive Director of Capitol Center for the Arts, elaborated on this problem at a House hearing in April: “And the important thing to take away from all this, too, is that, again, we enter into a contract with an artist, and any of those markups, any of the lift that was said before, the artist is not participating in any of that.”
Adding ticket resales to Consumer Protection Act
SB 328, this year’s bill to address deceptive ticket sales, seeks to protect customers, venues, and artists from deceptive ticket sales.
First, the bill requires ticket resellers to disclose if they do not actually own the ticket, the ticket is being sold in a block, and/or the consumer is not buying directly from the venue—all in big, bold font next to a checkbox the buyer must click.
Second, the bill bans the use of bots to purchase and resell tickets.
Third, the bill prohibits the sale of “speculative tickets,” which means the tickets are not in the seller’s possession at the time of the resale.
Lastly, SB 328 makes it illegal for a reseller to advertise tickets using any marketing content or other intellectual property without the permission of the artist or venue.
All of this would fall under New Hampshire’s Consumer Protection Act, which means either the Attorney General or an individual could seek damages.
Can NH enforce law on deceptive ticket sales?
On January 3 the House voted to send last year’s bill on ticket resales to “Interim Study,” basically a polite way to kill the legislation. SB 328 borrows a lot of language from that bill, so it probably faces an uphill battle in the Legislature.
Opponents argue the law would be difficult to enforce because it is very hard to track down scammers and deceptive businesses, many of whom operate overseas. These unscrupulous entities are also unlikely to comply with orders from the state of New Hampshire.
At the April public hearing Rep. Carry Spier (D-Nashua) asked, “If the FBI can’t help, and anybody else can’t help, how are we going to help?”
Other opponents are concerned the bill would unfairly limit legal ticket resales.
SB 328 also does not clarify if the “seller” responsible for following the law includes individuals and/or broker websites. For example, if an individual used a website or app to resell a ticket, and they copied some of the original venue’s marketing content in their post, it’s not clear whether the individual or the posting platform would be liable under state law.
Still, enforcement challenges have not deterred other states from forging ahead with bot bans and ticket resale regulations. For example, in 2023 Texas passed a law banning the use of bots for ticket purchases and sales. Virginia passed a law banning the misleading use of graphics by ticket resellers. Maine passed a law requiring ticket sellers to refund customers if a ticket is cancelled or not accepted by the venue.
As Sen. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst) testified at least year’s House hearing, “It is hard, I certainly do not disagree at all that enforcement of this kind of violation can be difficult, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t try.”
SB 328 has a public hearing January 16 before the Senate Commerce committee.