US Representatives have urged President Joe Biden to further investigate Live Nation and its extended consent decree with Ticketmaster pointing to its “potentially unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices.”
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland and acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Rebecca Slaughter, lawmakers Bill Pascrell Jr., Frank Pallone Jr., Jerrold Nadler, Jan Schakowsky and David Cicilline claim that there is “overwhelming” evidence that the 2010 merger between the two entertainment and ticketing giants has “strangled competition” and “harmed consumers”.
The five members of the US House of Representatives detail that Live Nation “holds more than 80 per cent of the venue ticket sales market,” which they deem to be an “unfair” and “deceptive” practice in the industry.
In January 2020, Live Nation’s consent decree was extended for five-and-a-half-years, which allowed it to merge with Ticketmaster in 2010. The US court allowed two entities to continue to operate despite testimony from the Department of Justice (DOJ), which claimed the live entertainment giant “repeatedly” broke the decree. It presented evidence it claims demonstrates that Live Nation threatened at least six venues.
The letter reads: “Since the merger, we have witnessed how pitfalls of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) consent decree has failed to protect competition and consumers. The DOJ itself has found that LNE has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement over the course of the last 10 years by threatening venues and forcing the bundling of artists with ticketing services.
“We believe the prior administration’s decision to extend the consent decree in 2019 to 2025 was insufficient to protect consumers. In its decision, DOJ did not demonstrate why extending the consent decree with only minor modifications would prevent LNE from continuing anticompetitive conduct. Rather than double-down on a failed approach, DOJ must now take steps needed to restore competition to the ticketing marketplace.”
The Representatives also allege Live Nation has “tightened its grasp on the secondary market,” stating it is “not satisfied with its near monopoly of the primary sale of tickets.”
It adds: “The company is now leveraging its position in the primary channel to drive out competition in the resale market and allowing for potentially unfair and deceptive practices.”
The letter points to Ticketmaster’s SafeTix identity-based product, which is being marketed as a solution to tackle touting. However, the Representatives claim the firms are using the programme to “ensure that tickets can only be resold or gifted within the Ticketmaster system.”
As live events begin to restart, the letter calls on the Biden administration to investigate the merger, stating: “It is imperative that consumers have access to a market that is transparent, fair, and competitive.”