By: Dan Rich, Esq.
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.
Question: Is “scalping,” or reselling, tickets illegal in Florida?
Remember when your favorite band came to town but you couldn’t go because all of the tickets sold out in less than five minutes, but then were being resold for thousands? I do. The art of reselling tickets at prices much higher than the face value of the ticket is commonly referred to as “scalping,” and is a very real dynamic of the live event scene that unfortunately results in far too many people purchasing tickets at much higher prices than face value.
Before delving into how Florida law handles scalping, regardless of whether the ticket sale occurred online, over the phone or directly in person, it is beneficial to get a quick background.
How do ticket sales even work?
Plainly speaking, a “ticket” is a piece of paper, or more recently an electronic access code, that permits the holder of that paper or access code the right to enter an event such as a concert, a spring training baseball game or that new blockbuster movie. Generally, you can purchase tickets from the venue itself or, from a ticketing agent like TicketMaster or StubHub, who was hired by the venue to sell tickets at face value, plus a fee.
But sales do not stop here, instead, you may be able to get your tickets from a “ticket broker.” A ticket broker is anyone who obtains tickets for the sole purpose of buying tickets and then quickly turning around and re-selling them for a profit. Ticket brokers come in all shapes and sizes ranging from professional ticket brokers who use technology to purchase up large lots of tickets for resale to the retired baseball fan who buys up a batch of tickets and resells them all season in that parking lot across the street.
Whose job is it to regulate ticket resales?
Currently, there is no federal law in place prohibiting scalping. However, fifteen (15) states have implemented their own policies and laws in regards to banning the practice of scalping in some way. The offense of scalping is most commonly classified as a misdemeanor, with penalties ranging from fines and/or up to one (1) year in jail.
In Florida, up until a bit over a decade ago, ticket scalping was illegal. However, in 2006 the Florida Legislature changed the laws, and permitted persons, including ticket brokers, to resell tickets.
What does Florida law provide?
Currently, in Florida it is legal to scalp or resell tickets at prices higher than face value as long as the seller follows the policies and procedures outlined by the Florida Legislature. These policies can be summarized as follows:
- Mandatory Guarantees. Resellers must post specific instructions on their ticket resale websites. The instructions are intended to provide clear guidelines for when a refund will be offered to purchasers, and the seller must also disclose that it is not the issuer, original seller or reseller of the ticket.
- Mandatory Refunds. Resellers must provide refunds to ticket purchasers if the event is canceled, the purchaser is denied admission to the event (for a reason not attributable to their own actions) and if the tickets are not delivered in the manner requested.
- Prohibitions on Location of Resale. Resellers cannot resell tickets for an event on the property where the event is taking place.
- Ban on Reselling Non-Profit Tickets. The resale of tickets to a charity event is strictly prohibited.
- Dollar Surcharge. Resellers are permitted to charge a $1 surcharge for reselling tickets, but only if the tickets being resold are for passage or accommodations on common carriers, to multi-day or multi-event tickets to a park or entertainment complex, or sold through an Internet website that fails to meet the criteria mentioned above.
- Ban on “Bot” Software. Resellers may not use “bot,” or computer software, to buy up tickets. This provision of the Florida law is intended to limit professional scalpers from buying up blocks of tickets to events, impeding purchasers from getting direct access to these tickets.
Therefore, if a person or business violates any of the above-referenced provisions their attempt to resell those tickets will be considered a violation of Florida statutory law, and in turn would make their scalping attempt illegal. By understanding what is permissible and what is prohibited or required, event goers will be able to appear informed and knowledgeable the next time they are approached by a scalper. If you feel you have been wronged or cheated by a scalper, I would encourage you to contact an attorney that has knowledge of these laws and how they apply.
Dan Rich is an attorney with the law firm Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. in Lakeland. Questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.