Peter Schorsch: Florida ticket-buyers need consumer protection

Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee heard Senate Bill 742. As Sen. Nancy Detert pointed out, “ticket wars” happen session after session. The battle has traditionally been viewed as a power struggle between Ticketmaster and StubHub. This year, things have changed.

Sen. Wilton Simpson amended his bill in committee and stated that with the changes, this bill was all about consumer protection and has nothing to do with the turf wars in years past. Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who is carrying the House companion, made similar statements. So what’s actually in the bill?

This legislation creates disclosure requirements so that consumers have all of the information at the time of purchase. Customers must be told if they are buying direct from the venue or from a reseller, if the reseller has the tickets on hand, the face value of the ticket and exactly where the seats are located. Consumers can still make any choice, the changes to the law would ensure that they have all the info to make a well-informed choice. A recent My Fox Tampa Bay investigation video was played for the committee and it demonstrated how Floridians are being taken advantage of in the absence of any disclosure.

The bill is being supported by a broad coalition of interests: the Orlando Magic, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Straz Center, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and the University of Florida. All of these companies have a presence in Florida and give back to our communities.

In committee, the opposition paraded a group of FSU students in front of the committee to speak against the bill. Listening to the arguments, it was clear that they had no idea what the legislation actually does and that it was a move to divert attention and run the clock out. Sen. Jack Latvala had been told by lobbyists opposing the bill that it created new disclosure rules applying to everyone except Ticketmaster. The Commerce Committee staff attorney said that was blatantly false and that what’s proposed in the bill applies to everyone. Latvala told the opposition that he found their arguments “weak.”

Florida’s consumers deserve a transparent purchasing process. Would you buy a car without knowing the true identity of the seller and the vehicle’s exact make and model and mileage? Of course not. There are laws to protect consumers that mandate disclosure of information during the purchasing process for many items. Why should tickets, some of which sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars, be any different?

There are reputable ticket sellers amongst the opposition, who don’t want to go to the expense of changing their computer systems to comply with new disclosure requirements. And then there are the other not-so-reputable companies. During House and Senate committee meetings, a company that was fined $750,000 by the state of Connecticut for profiting from deceptive practices during the ticket sale process actually stood in opposition to this legislation. Of course they are opposed. Having no consumer protection in Florida drives up their profit margins.

In a state like Florida where tourism and our live entertainment industry are such huge economic drivers, we can’t afford to have lax consumer protection. Floridians and visitors deserve better. Simpson and Ingoglia should be applauded for making changes that provide real consumer protection without putting any restrictions on where consumers can buy or sell their tickets.

Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Fla. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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