Taylor Swift ticket issue caused by Ticketmaster abusing its market power, says Senate antitrust chairman

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CNN Business

Senator Amy Klobuchar criticized Ticketmaster In an open letter to its CEO, saying he has “serious concerns” about the company’s operations after a service collapse on Tuesday that left Taylor Swift fans furious.

In the letter to CEO Michael Rapino, the Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, wrote that complaints from Swift fans about not being able to buy tickets for her upcoming tour, in addition to of the criticisms about the high fees, suggests that the company “continue to abuse their positions in the market.”

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically drive companies to innovate and improve their services. That can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers pay the price,” Klobuchar wrote.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the country’s largest concert promoter, merged a decade ago. Klobuchar noted that the company at the time was committed to “developing a single, easily accessible platform” for ticket delivery. On Thursday, the senator told Rapino that “it seems his confidence was misplaced.”

“When Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation in 2010, it was subject to an antitrust consent decree that prohibited it from abusing its market position,” Klobuchar wrote. “However, there have been numerous complaints about your company’s compliance with that decree.”

The letter includes a list of questions for Rapino to answer next week. Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.

On Tuesday, the company said “there has been a historically unprecedented demand with millions coming forward” to buy tickets for Swift’s tour and thanked fans for their “patience.”

Klobuchar is the latest high-profile politician to openly criticize ticketmaster for the ticket sales disaster that left bad blood between Swift’s fans and the company.

“@Ticketmaster’s excessive wait times and fees are completely unacceptable, as seen with today’s @taylorswift13 tickets, and are a symptom of a larger problem. It’s no secret that Live Nation-Ticketmaster is an unchecked monopoly,” Rep. David Cicilline, currently chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, tweeted Tuesday.

“Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, their merger with LiveNation should never have been approved and they must be reined in,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Complaints about the company’s monopoly power date back long before the troubles with tickets on Tuesday, when the platform appeared to crash or freeze during pre-sale purchases for Swift’s latest tour.

In 1994, when Taylor Swift was just four years old and ticket purchase lines were in person or by phone, not online, the rock group Pearl Jam filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s antitrust division asserting that Ticketmaster has a “virtually absolute monopoly over the distribution of tickets for concerts”. He tried to book his tour only at venues that did not use Ticketmaster.

The Justice Department and many state attorneys general have filed similar complaints over the years.

Despite those concerns, Ticketmaster continued to become more dominant. Pearl Jam’s complaint was quietly dismissed. The Justice Department and the states allowed the Live Nation Ticketmaster merger to go ahead despite a 2010 court filing in the case that raised objections to the merger. In the filing, the Justice Department said that Ticketmaster’s share among major concert venues exceeded 80%.

– CNN Business’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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