U.S. senator questions Ticketmaster after Taylor Swift sales complaints

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ticketmaster faced new questions from a Democratic U.S. senator over its sales practices on Thursday, two days after Taylor Swift fans complained about website outages and long waits to buy tickets to her upcoming U.S. tour.

In the letter to Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE:LYV) Inc, Senator Amy Klobuchar voiced “serious concern 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 typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” added Klobuchar, who is chair of a Senate subcommittee on antitrust issues. “That can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.”

On Tuesday, Swift fans swarmed the Ticketmaster website and encountered long wait times, with many unable to buy tickets. Ticketmaster said the tour generated unprecedented demand and it worked quickly to fix problems.

In her letter, Klobuchar asked Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino to answer a handful of questions, including how much the company had spent to upgrade technology to handle demand surges, and what percentage of high-profile tour tickets were reserved for presales.

Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Klobuchar’s letter.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in a 2010 deal approved by the Justice Department. The government can challenge a completed merger but rarely does so. Klobuchar, in her letter, said she had been skeptical of the combination at the time.

Ticketmaster has angered artists and fans for decades. In the mid-1990s, the grunge band Pearl Jam decided to tour without using Ticketmaster but found it too unwieldy and returned to the service after 14 months.