'We're looking into it.' NC AG investigating Ticketmaster after chaos over Taylor Swift tix

Samantha Kummerer Image
Friday, November 18, 2022
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"I'm not alleging they violated any laws yet. That's why we're looking into it," Josh Stein said.

North Carolina's top lawyer announced that he will be investigating Ticketmaster.

The announcement comes after tens of thousands of Taylor Swift fans experienced chaos this week trying to purchase tickets on the platform for the singers' upcoming Era's Tour.

On Thursday, Stein utilized a Swift song when he tweeted, "BREAKING: You're NOT on your own, kid. My office is investigating Ticketmaster for allegedly violating consumers' rights and antitrust law," alongside a Swift meme.

"When there is a monopoly, you have higher prices and worse quality and I want to be assured that Ticketmaster hasn't shirked its responsibility to have a well-functioning website because of their market power," Stein told ABC11 on Friday.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010. ABC News previously reported the companies control 70% of primary ticketing and live venues. The merger is getting renewed attention this week due to a large number of issues with Taylor Swift Tickets.

"I'm not alleging they violated any laws yet. That's why we're looking into it," Stein said. "But if Ticketmaster is in fact, is a monopoly, and they're using that monopoly power to harm consumers through higher prices, and worse quality service, that's a real problem under federal and state law."

Swift fans like Raleigh resident Taylor Cordes are supporting Stein's decision.

"They have a monopoly on the market. They are able to behave in the way that they behave and just get away with it and you're just like, what are you going to do? They're the only ones selling the tickets," she said.

Cordes and her friend both were lucky enough to score presale codes for the concerts in Philadelphia and Nashville. However, when the presale started on Tuesday, their luck turned into hours of frustration.

"She gets tickets, gets them in her cart and they're like good seats and that's when the error code started popping up for her," Cordes said of her and her friend's dual experience. "She got multiple different error codes so she couldn't quite figure out what was going on. She got multiple times where it was like, 'another fan got those tickets', but then multiple times it was 'it couldn't process her card,' or that there was, 'the site was overloaded.'"

Eventually, the pair got kicked out of the Philadelphia presale and forced to get back in line. At the same time, Cordes was paused in the Nashville queue for hours.

After nine hours, Cordes said they finally were able to purchase tickets in Nashville.

"They dropped the ball. If nothing happens, then they'll just get away with it with no consequences and I think that doing that doesn't ever make them change their practices like they'll never improve if someone doesn't make them," she said of Ticketmaster.

Multiple other fans tweeted they waited hours during the presale only to leave empty-handed.

"We're like really lucky in a sense, even though it doesn't feel that way," Cordes said.

Following the chaotic presale, Ticketmaster announced Friday's general public sales for tickets would be canceled.

"Normally, we would say, 'Hey, if Ticketmaster is doing a lousy job, let's go somewhere else.' The job of antitrust law is not to punish Ticketmaster for doing a bad job, the job of antitrust law is to make sure that there are other options," explained Duke University business professor Barak Richman.

Richman said it's not illegal to be a monopoly or to provide bad service, but there is an issue if monopolies form by buying up competitors.

He said the country should have taken action years ago before there became so few options in the ticket sales market.

"There was a time when Live Nation was purchasing up competing venues and really dominated the venue market. That might have been a really good time to enforce the antitrust laws. There is possible I suppose to use the antitrust laws to undo some of those acquisitions, but that's a lot harder," he said.

Swift shared on her Instagram story on Friday, "It's really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse."

Swift did not mention Ticketmaster by name but said her team asked "multiple times" if the company could handle the demand and her team was "assured they could."

Ticketmaster did not return ABC11's request for comment.

Previously, the company responded to criticisms in a statement saying that it "knew this would be big" and blaming the site outages and other technical issues on a bombardment of "bot attacks."

ABC News reported over 3.5 million people registered for the presale event, of those, 1.5 million fans were given codes.

Ticketmaster said a "staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn't have invite codes drove unprecedented traffic to our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests -- 4x our previous peak."

"Never before has a Verified Fan on sale sparked so much attention," Ticketmaster's statement continued. "Over 2 million tickets were sold for Taylor's shows on Nov. 15 -- the most tickets ever sold for an artist in a single day."

"Ticketmaster says, 'Our computers were overwhelmed. It's not our fault.' I mean, maybe there's some truth to that, but it's kind of their job. At least they were contracted to handle that problem," Richman said. "The way that we handle that problem is by finding somebody else. The problem is with antitrust law that very few people care, and very few people demand enforcement until it's too late."

Stein encouraged any North Carolinian who experienced issues purchasing Swift tickets or any other concert through Ticketmaster to file a complaint with his office.

He also reminded consumers to be cautious when purchasing tickets on the secondary market. He advised going with a legitimate website so that if the person turns out to be a scammer, you can get your money back.