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Tennessee AG probing Ticketmaster’s role in chaos over Taylor Swift tickets

This Nov. 24, 2019 file photo shows Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles.Jordan Strauss/Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Tennessee’s attorney general said he would look into whether the live-events site Ticketmaster violated consumers’ rights and antitrust regulations, after glitches on the platform during the sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour left some fans stranded in hours-long virtual queues.

Jonathan Skrmetti (R) said his office had received complaints from people who tried purchasing tickets for "Eras," Swift's first tour in over four years, and said they faced a chaotic process and a "severe lack of customer support" from Ticketmaster. It was not clear Thursday morning whether the attorney general has opened a formal investigation.

"We are concerned about this very dominant market player, and we want to make sure that they're treating consumers right and that people are receiving a fair opportunity to purchase the tickets that clearly matter a great deal to them," Skrmetti said of Ticketmaster during a Wednesday news conference, according to a transcript provided by his office.

"We just need to take a closer look," he added.

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The chaos over sales of Swift tickets caused some politicians to raise questions about the 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and the event company Live Nation, amid allegations from consumer rights groups that the company abused its dominant position in the market. Skrmetti, who said his office had "previously looked into antitrust allegations involving Ticketmaster and Live Nation," stressed that neither company has been accused of misconduct.

Ticketmaster did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post early Thursday.

Ticketmaster launched the sale of tickets to "Eras" in the United States on Tuesday, but many fans who descended on the platform to secure a coveted spot said they experienced technical glitches, long wait times and higher-than-expected ticket prices. Some said they were unable to buy tickets.

The website briefly crashed as Ticketmaster reported "unprecedented" demand and rescheduled some presale events to the following day.

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Some fans told The Post that they waited hours in a virtual queue, only to get served an error message.

Skrmetti, who serves Swift's home state, said Ticketmaster should have been prepared for the surge in demand and questioned whether "because they have such a dominant market position, they felt like they didn't need to worry about that."

In particular, Skrmetti highlighted that consumers signed up for presale codes that promised fast and easy access to tickets, but this did not appear to materialize. "We need to look into exactly what was promised and whether that was provided," he said.

Skrmetti is not the only politician calling for more scrutiny of possible antitrust violations. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that "Ticketmaster is a monopoly" that should be broken up.

The U.S. Justice Department approved Ticketmaster's merger with Live Nation in 2010 after the companies agreed to certain conditions, including for Ticketmaster to license its ticketing software to competitors. At the time, the move was criticized by some artists and activists who said it would give Ticketmaster the ability to endlessly increase fees. But the Justice Department argued that the terms of the merger would "protect competition for primary ticketing, which will in turn maintain incentives for innovation and discounting."

More than a decade later, some antitrust and consumer groups say the merger has created a harmful monopoly. Several of these groups launched a campaign last month aimed at convincing the Justice Department to "investigate and unwind" the merger, accusing Ticketmaster of using its dominant position in the live-events and ticketing market to "hike up ticket prices, tack on expensive junk fees, and exploit artists, independent venues, and fans."

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Skrmetti on Wednesday said the Justice Department's agreement with Ticketmaster and Live Nation "was theoretically going to reduce the antitrust risks."

But, he continued, "if we're seeing a situation where people are trying to use the service and aren't getting the product that they've paid for, the product that they were promised, that could be an indicator that there's not enough competition in the market."


The Washington Post’s Tatum Hunter contributed to this report.