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‘Taylor Swift bills’ pass as Michigan lawmakers try to stop bots from buying concert tickets

‘Taylor Swift bills’ pass as Michigan lawmakers try to stop bots from buying concert tickets

(Photo Illustration/Charles McQuillan/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

By Kyle Kaminski

July 3, 2024

Michigan is in its consumer protection era—and state lawmakers are advancing bills that would ban people from using robots to buy up large quantities of tickets for concerts, sporting events, and other performances.

MICHIGAN—Two bills approved last month in the state House of Representatives are designed to give Michiganders access to cheaper concert tickets—namely by banning people from using computer software to bypass purchasing limits and scalp tickets at a much higher price.

Together, House Bill 5661 and 5662 aim to create a new state law known as the “Event Online Ticket Sales Act,” which would create new civil penalties—including a fine of up to $5,000—for ticket scalpers who are caught circumventing ticket purchasing limits at concerts, theatrical performances, sporting events, and all other ticketed events at both public and private venues.

The goal: Help address frustration among Michiganders who have faced “countless hurdles and disappointments” in their attempts to secure tickets to popular events, according to a release.

Bill sponsors and state Reps. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park) and Graham Filler (R-St. Johns), have dubbed the legislation the “Taylor Swift bills” after ticket scalpers recently used computer software to navigate around Ticketmaster’s purchase limits, buy up large quantities of tickets for Swift’s Eras Tour, and then resell them for thousands of dollars beyond their original value.

“Michiganders are tired of these scalping bots that purchase and hoard tickets for resale, often pricing them out of reach for many hardworking families,” McFall said in a statement. “These bills … will protect consumers, keep tickets affordable, and hold bad actors accountable.”

According to a legislative analysis, the use of bots to buy tickets is already illegal on the federal level, but enforcement has been largely ineffective, leaving Michiganders vulnerable to exploitation. The new legislation would also give state Attorney General Dana Nessel more tools to help address the issue—namely by allowing her to file civil litigation in a Michigan courtroom.

Proponents of the state legislation—which included representatives from both Stubhub and Ticketmaster—have also suggested that the additional regulations could boost tourism to Michigan by ensuring consumers can access tickets at a more reasonable price. 

Lawmakers said the legislation follows in the footsteps of Arizona, which recently enacted similar measures, “signaling a growing national consensus” on the need for the regulations.

“This is about fairness and ensuring that Michiganders have a fair shot at purchasing tickets to their favorite events without unfair competition from automated bots,” Filler said in a statement. “This is an issue that affects all of us who love attending concerts and sporting events.”

Both bills in the package reportedly won wide and bipartisan support, passing the chamber 106-4 and 98-12, respectively. The legislation now heads to the Senate for further consideration. 

In related news…

Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, and other major event ticketing companies announced last year that they would institute an “all-in” pricing model, meaning that consumers will no longer be surprised by additional fees at the checkout. Instead, when consumers buy their tickets through these companies, they’ll know upfront exactly how much they’re going to end up paying. 

The announcement followed months of pressure from the Biden-Harris administration and elected officials across the country. Ticketmaster, in particular, has faced criticism this year from both the White House and Congress over the ticketing debacle tied to Swift’s Eras Tour, where fans expressed outrage over “exorbitant” hidden fees, as well as issues with ticket scalpers.

Some fans even sued Ticketmaster, and the issue prompted investigations in three states. 

The Justice Department even launched its own, independent investigation, which culminated in a lawsuit being filed this year against Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster.

The federal lawsuit is backed by Nessel and attorneys general for 28 other states, and alleges that Live Nation leveraged its power as a venue owner, concert promoter, and ticket seller to weaken consumer choice, hike prices, eliminate its rivals, and monopolize the market.

The Biden-Harris administration, which has made tackling these hidden fees and monopoly power a priority, has also vowed to continue working to address the issue at the federal level.

“Folks are tired of being taken advantage of, and being played for suckers,” President Joe Biden said in a speech at the White House in October. “[These] charges are taking real money out of the pockets of American families. These junk fees can add up to hundreds of dollars, weighing down family budgets, making it harder to pay family bills. These junk fees may not matter to the wealthy, but they sure matter to working folks in homes like the one I grew up in.”

READ MORE: Sick of absurd Ticketmaster prices? Biden’s DOJ is going after them

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

CATEGORIES: STATE LEGISLATURE
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