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New York Looks Into ‘Speculative’ Ticket Resellers

Bruce Springsteen
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Tickets for Bruce Springsteen's 2016 tour will not go on sale until Friday, but hundreds of seats have already been listed for up to $5,000 or more on StubHub and other resale sites — listings that have drawn the attention of the New York attorney general in the latest volley over the $8 billion ticket scalping business.

On Monday, letters from the office of the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, were sent to StubHub and two other popular resale sites, TicketNetwork and Vivid Seats, asking about "speculative" ticket listings — offerings of seats on secondary markets when the seller may not actually possess the advertised tickets. Such listings are common in the online ticketing world, but the attorney general believes that they may constitute deceptive advertising, which would violate state business laws.

"Speculative tickets harm both consumers and the ticket industry," says the letter, signed by Jordan Adler, an assistant attorney general in the office's Internet bureau. "In many cases, consumers who purchase a speculative ticket do not receive the seats that were advertised and paid for. In some cases, consumers receive no tickets at all. Speculative ticket sales also drive up prices for consumers, and often cause widespread confusion and frustration among consumers, who wonder how tickets can appear on the resale market before tickets are released to the public."

StubHub, TicketNetwork and Vivid Seats all operate as marketplaces on which third-party sellers, many of them professional brokers, offer tickets for sale. In a statement, StubHub, which is owned by eBay, said it was reviewing the attorney general's letter, but that it has "no reason to believe that there are speculative tickets" on its site and that the company offers refunds or replacements for any invalid tickets.

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A TicketNetwork spokesman said, after receiving the attorney general's letter, that the company had "voluntarily chosen to take down any inventory listed on our site for Bruce Springsteen concerts in New York until the public sale this Friday." Vivid Seats said it had a goal of "ensuring a positive customer experience in ticket buying."

Online ticket scalping for Mr. Springsteen's tours has spurred outrage in the past. In 2009, Ticketmaster customers complained that the site had pointed them without their knowledge to TicketsNow, then TicketMaster's online resale site, where tickets were being scalped well above face value. The Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general of New Jersey both investigated the episode. Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation Entertainment, settled both complaints and agreed not to link to TicketsNow for a year.

Since then, Live Nation has pursued the secondary ticket market aggressively, and for many concerts it lists new tickets alongside others that are being offered for resale. At an investor conference in New York last month, Michael Rapino, the chief executive of Live Nation, said that the company valued the secondary ticket market at $8 billion.

Recently Adele released tickets for sale in Europe using Songkick, a concert listing and ticketing site, and announced that "the resale of tickets will not be tolerated." According to Songkick and Adele's manager, that system kept most of the first batch of tickets out of resale markets.