EXCLUSIVE: AG Eric Schneiderman wants ticket-scalping law reform to benefit consumer

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Chief of Staff Brian Mahanna sent a letter to state lawmakers expressing that "last year’s bot legislation was important" but it did not "solve all of the problems."

ALBANY — With the state ticket-scalping law set to expire on June 30, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants any renewal to include what he says are consumer-friendly reforms.

Schneiderman Chief of Staff Brian Mahanna sent a letter Thursday to state legislative leaders urging that instead of again extending the law as is, they address weaknesses that make it harder for most fans to score tickets at face value.

“In short, the industry is not fixing itself and New Yorkers continue to suffer as a result,” Mahanna wrote.

Mahanna wrote that the law should require ticket sellers to make public how many seats are being set aside for pre-sales and other "holds" and should keep ticket brokers from advertising tickets they don’t yet own.

After Schneiderman in 2016 released a report that found widespread problems within the ticket industry, the Legislature passed a bill outlawing the use of “bot” software that allows brokers to buy thousands of tickets within seconds of their going on sale.

“While last year’s bot legislation was important, it did not solve all of the problems,” Mahanna wrote.

Schneiderman’s report found that 54% of all tickets to hot concerts are set aside for industry insiders or presale customers before they are offered to the general public — and sometimes even more.

In his letter, Mahanna said that pre-sales for those who carry particular credit cards limit how many tickets are made available to the general public.

He said that just 2,000 seats at an 18,000-seat New York City arena were made available to the general public for two Justin Bieber concerts in 2012.“Fans are in the dark about these facts, so promoters, venues, and ticketing agents (e.g., Ticketmaster) lack incentive to avoid such disproportionate set-asides,” he wrote. “More transparency would create a fairer and better functioning market.”

Speculative tickets, where a broker offers them to buyers without having yet purchased them, “are a risk for consumers — as the buyer may not be able to obtain the desired ticket — and also drive up prices even before tickets are released, as a speculative market can lead to price spikes."

Schneiderman mentioned he no longer wants to extend the law after pointing out that "the industry is not fixing itself and New Yorkers continue to suffer as a result.”

(Paul Sakuma/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

He urged lawmakers to explicitly ban the sale of speculative tickets.

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs his house’s tourism and arts committee, was not familiar with the letter from Schneiderman’s office, but says he, too, opposes a straight extender of the ticket laws.

“I have already begun to look into this and will look to see whether some of the things brought to my attention can be corrected,” he said. “Whether I can get consensus to get that moved, I don’t know, but I’m in the process of working on it.”

A Senate GOP spokesman had no immediate comment on the letter.

In signing a straight one-year extension of the ticket laws last year, Gov. Cuomo warned he wanted reforms or he would not sign it again.

Sources close to the situation say Cuomo is now ready to accept a straight extender. But Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said that "state officials have been meeting with stakeholders for months to gather information and help craft further reforms to strengthen consumer protections. These talks are ongoing."

In a statement, Ticketmaster said it is "in the business of getting tickets into the hands of fans. We look forward to engaging with legislators in Albany on ways to continue giving artists, teams and venues in New York State more tools for selling their tickets and engaging with their fans."

Schneiderman recently announced a $4.19 million settlement with a half-dozen ticket brokers who are said to have mostly used bot software to purchase large quantities of tickets before consumers had a chance at them.

His office is also currently investigating the recent lightning-quick sell-out of a coming Paul McCartney show in Syracuse.