LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Ticketmaster faced questions from a Democratic U.S. senator on Thursday about its sales practices, two days after Taylor Swift fans complained about website outages and long waits to buy tickets for his upcoming US tour.
In a letter to Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment Inc ( LYV.N ), Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate antitrust panel, expressed “serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers.” .
“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that often drive companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar added in the letter he made public. “This can result in the kinds of dramatic service failures we’ve seen this week, where consumers are the ones paying the price.”
Ticketmaster said in a statement Thursday that it had anticipated high demand for tickets to see Swift perform on her first tour in five years, but that extreme interest, combined with bot attacks, has led to “unprecedented traffic on our site” and inconvenience to some fans
“The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the world’s leading ticketing technology – that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor’s on sale it wasn’t,” the statement said. “But we’re always working to improve the ticketing experience.”
The company added that about 15% of interactions on the site experienced problems and that it sold 2 million tickets on Tuesday.
Swift fans flocked to Ticketmaster’s website that day and were met with long wait times, with many unable to purchase tickets. Ticketmaster’s statement did not address any of Klobuchar’s concerns about competition.
In his letter, Klobuchar asked Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino to answer questions, including how much the company has spent updating technology to handle surges in demand and what percentage of high-profile tour tickets have been set aside for presale . Ticketmaster’s statement did not respond to these questions.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in a 2010 deal approved by the Justice Department. The government can challenge a completed merger but rarely does. Klobuchar, in her letter, said she had been skeptical of the combination at the time.
Ticketmaster has pissed off artists and fans for decades. In the mid-1990s, grunge band Pearl Jam decided to tour without using Ticketmaster but found it too difficult to handle and returned to the service after 14 months.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Diane Bartz in Washington Editing by Gerry Doyle and Matthew Lewis
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