North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced on Nov. 17 that his office was opening an investigation into Ticketmaster for “allegedly violating consumers’ rights and antitrust laws.”
Prompted by several complaints through Stein’s office’s Consumer Protection Division, the announcement comes after an unprecedented surge in demand caused problems for Ticketmaster’s presale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s upcoming “The Eras Tour.” The investigation will determine if Ticketmaster complied with North Carolina antitrust laws and if it is using its power to harm North Carolina consumers.
After over five years without a tour, millions of fans raced to get seats to watch Swift perform her recent studio albums live for the first time. According to Ticketmaster, over 3.5 million people registered for their Verified Fan program, a filtering system designed to identify fans and restrict bots and resellers. 1.5 million people were given access to the early sale for Swift’s tour with the remaining 2 million people put on a waiting list.
But when sales opened on Nov. 15, millions of fans faced hours-long wait times and technical difficulties, with many ultimately unable to get tickets. Ticketmaster then canceled the Nov. 18 general public ticket sales, citing “high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”
Sophomore Katelyn Sheets and her mother were in the Ticketmaster presale line for five and a half hours.
“It started to look like it was going to let her through and then she got an error message and it kicked her back to the end of the queue,” Sheets said.
After the error, Sheets’ mother “was in there for another 45 minutes, and then by the time she got in, there were no tickets,” she said.
Sheets said she had planned to participate in the general sale before finding out that Ticketmaster had canceled it.
The ticket sale difficulties drew criticism from some lawmakers, who emphasized concerns that Ticketmaster was acting as a monopoly. In 2010, a merger of Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation gave the companies control of 70% of primary ticketing and live venues.
"I'm not alleging they violated any laws yet. That's why we're looking into it," Stein told ABC11. "But if Ticketmaster is in fact a monopoly, and they're using that monopoly power to harm consumers through higher prices and worse quality service, that's a real problem under federal and state law."
"Normally, we would say, 'Hey, if Ticketmaster is doing a lousy job, let's go somewhere else.' The job of antitrust law is not to punish Ticketmaster for doing a bad job, the job of antitrust law is to make sure that there are other options," Duke Law Professor Barak Richman told ABC11.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti made similar moves and launched a consumer protection and antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster on Nov. 16.
Taylor Swift sympathized with fans after the debacle on social media. She wrote on her Instagram story that it was “excruciating for [her] to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse” and that she was “trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward.”
Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation Entertainment responded with a statement defending Ticketmaster’s breakdown.
“Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system,” the statement read. “The market is increasingly competitive nonetheless.”
Zoe Spicer contributed reporting.
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Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.