Watered-down version of ticket-selling bill still puts Ticketmaster ahead of free-market principles

Last year, BPR covered an interesting story for all lovers of the free market.  It concerned the power grab by big-money ticket-selling companies like Ticketmaster who were on a mission to use the Florida Legislature to help control the ticket market.

ticketmastermerger1Ultimately, that effort last year failed. In fact, it failed to even get one hearing in the state House.

This year, that has changed. Ticketmaster’s lobbying team has done a better job in securing sponsors who can help move the legislation, especially in the House of Representatives. Freshman State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia has been their champion. He also just happens to be the newly elected chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The bill sponsors are different, and the bill is different too, but its net effect is the same, or would be the same if it clears a couple of final hurdles and is passed.

Yes, it has been watered down. The bill does not directly attempt to get ticket resellers or even those who give them away to register as brokers with the state, and it does not deal with the “tickets as personal property” doctrine or embed so-called “restricted ticketing” deep in Florida’s statutes.

This year, in the name of fighting fraud, the bill simply wants to treat differently the reseller platforms of companies other than those operated by the originating seller of the ticket. In a huge majority of the cases in Florida, that benefits Ticketmaster. That’s right, Ticketmaster has their own online ticket reseller platforms, but they want everyone else’s platform to use language with warnings about fraudulent sites, dubious brokerage practices, etc.

And that’s the heart of the problem: The exclusion clearly benefits the original sellers of tickets while penalizing those that only resell.

The Legislature’s job is to create an even playing field in Florida’s business environment, not allow for self-dealing advantages to be created by those companies wealthy enough to hire the biggest lobbying team.

Billie Tucker, a consultant to entrepreneurial CEOs and First Coast Tea Party co-founder, noted that “efforts like these being undertaken by those who want to use the Legislature to enhance their profits are exactly what has caused people, especially conservatives, to be disillusioned and candidly, infuriated, by the political process and special interests. It is not beneficial to the free market for the Legislature to even consider such a ridiculous bill.”

That’s why it is especially confusing that the Republican Party of Florida chairman would be the lead sponsor.

Ingoglia told BPR that he wasn’t aware of anything in the bill that would give an unfair advantage to Ticketmaster but he wouldn’t speak on the record to defend the bill.

Disillusionment is one thing. Hurting consumers is another, and that is what frustrates Julius Melendez, a former Osceola County school board member. He had this to say: “I’m a conservative because I know that free markets work for consumers by keeping prices low. When we allow one company to use legislation to corner the market, we are basically killing the pocketbook of consumers. I cannot understand why anyone would support this legislation.”

Legislative leadership should do the right thing and allow this thing to die.

Permanently.

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