Buying tickets for events could soon look very different in Colorado thanks to legislation advanced by the state Senate on Thursday.
If passed into law, Senate Bill 60 would prohibit many common practices in the ticket selling industry, classifying them as “deceptive trade practices.” This would include banning “speculative ticketing,” in which companies resell tickets they do not yet own and customers are often not guaranteed to receive the tickets they purchase.
This effort comes as recent events have shaken public confidence in the ticket selling industry, including hundreds of Bad Bunny concert tickets turning out to be invalid during his world tour and Taylor Swift fans experiencing hours-long wait times for tickets costing thousands of dollars a pop.
“Nearly everyone I talk to has had a difficult, if not impossible, experience purchasing online tickets for a concert, sporting event or show,” said bill sponsor Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver. "We must do a better job of eliminating deceptive resale practices and improve transparency for consumers."
If approved by the full state legislature, the bill would update the state's ticketing statues for the first time since 2008 to classify the following trade practices as deceptive:
Selling a ticket without having possession of it
Selling a ticket that does not match its advertised description
Selling a ticket without disclosing the total cost including service charges and other fees
Increasing the price of a ticket once it has already been selected for purchase
Using copyrighted or similar web designs, URLs or other symbols to sell a ticket, leading consumers to believe they’re buying from an event’s official ticket seller instead of a reseller
Using computer software, or bots, to automatically purchase a large number of tickets or circumvent ticket limits — which was outlawed federally in 2016
The bill would still allow individuals to resell their own tickets, unless the tickets were donated to them for free as part of a charitable event or offered in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Senate passed the bill in a 27-7 vote on Thursday, advancing it to the House for further consideration.
“The crux of the matter is to improve the buying experience for an ordinary consumer, that they can get their tickets at a fair price and get it from a reputable source," said Sen. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, who voted in support of the bill.
The bill had both bipartisan support and opposition, though Sen. Tom Sullivan of Aurora was the sole Democrat to vote against the bill.
Sullivan raised issue with the fact that no individual consumers testified on the bill during its committee hearing to explain how current ticket sale practices have hurt them. He specifically criticized one panel of witnesses during the hearing who all flew in from out of state to testify. Those witnesses were all opposed to the bill, representing companies including StubHub and NetChoice.
“What’s concerning to me is a bill that in the title talks about consumer protections had no consumers show up to talk to us," Sullivan said. “This appeared to me to be a bill concerning one big company that prints out the tickets and a lot of other companies that put on the events. There was no real consumer interaction.”
While no consumers testified in support of the bill during the committee hearing, numerous local venue operators testified in support. Several venue operators said they have to reject customers on a daily basis who purchased speculative tickets from resellers but never got the actual ticket.
Other operators spoke of resellers using bots to circumvent ticket limits, buying hundreds of tickets at once to resell at higher prices. While the events may sell out, if the resellers do not find someone else to buy the tickets, the events end up being way emptier than the venue prepared for. This leads to venues losing money after overpaying for staff, security and drinks for a sold-out crowd.
Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, echoed Sullivan's concerns, saying he was torn on how to vote on the bill, but believed they were spending too much time worrying about "a fight against primary sellers and resellers." He also spoke on the trivial nature of event ticket sales, saying going to a concert isn't an essential need of their constituents.
“I don’t have any anger or animosity or anything about either of these groups," said Gardner, who ended up voting against the bill. "They’re just using the technology and using the market. And if you’re willing to pay and you’ve got the money to pay, then OK.”
Leading up to Thursday's vote, controversy on the bill was largely due to one component that would have allowed event operators to revoke or restrict tickets that are purchased or sold through deceptive trade practices. Resale companies including Vivid Seats and StubHub pushed back hard against this, saying venue owners like Ticketmaster could abuse this power to void all tickets bought by their competitors.
Rodriguez amended the bill Tuesday to remove this provision, now only allowing ticket revocation under the same standards as existing season ticket laws.
He also removed a part of the bill that would let venues pursue civil penalties against ticketing companies that engaging in deceptive trade practices, limiting the power to district attorneys and attorneys general. The penalties are a fine of $10,000-$20,000 for the first violation, $25,000-$50,000 for the second violation, $100,000-$200,000 for the third violation, and $1 million-$2 million for the fourth or any subsequent violations.
These changes were enough to sway some lawmakers to support the bill, including Sen. Mark Baisley, R-Woodland Park, who is now a co-sponsor.
“I had some issues,” Baisley said, “but Sen. Rodriguez has made adjustments that really made this turn out to be a real quality bill that’s going to do our citizens a whole lot of good when they’re simply buying tickets for their entertainment.”
The bill will next be sent to the House for another vote in the coming weeks. If passed, the bill will go to Gov. Jared Polis for final approval and take effect immediately upon signage.