Carolina Hurricanes Trying to Block New York Fans With Ticket Restrictions
The Carolina Hurricanes have decided that if their own fans don’t want to attend their home playoff contests, they’d rather the seats be empty than full of New York Rangers fans. The organization, which still has numerous unsold seats for tonight’s contest in Raleigh, has implemented ticket restrictions on the geographic area of purchase, only allowing consumers with credit card billing addresses in their region. This means anyone outside of North Carolina, South Carolina, or southern Virginia will not be able to purchase tickets through the primary marketplace or secondary marketplaces operated by Ticketmaster.
Fans looking to purchase tickets for any Carolina home game in the series are greeted with a message informing them of this policy at the top of the ticketing page, though much of the information is hidden from view:
To better serve Carolina Hurricanes fans, a restricted sales area has been implemented for this Hurricanes game. PNC Arena is located in Raleigh, NC. Sales to this event will be restricted to residents of North Carolina, South Carolina and Southern Virginia. Residency will be based on credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside of the geo-limited area will be canceled without notice and refunds given. Please adhere to the published ticket limits. If you exceed the ticket limit, you may have any or all of your orders and tickets canceled without notice.
In practice, this policy is merely going to force those living outside of that geographic area to purchase tickets on other secondary market websites, where prices are trending higher – likely due in part to the team’s decision to turn customers away.
According to Ticket Club, the “get-in” price for tonight’s Game 1 of the seven game series is $130 (inclusive of all fees for members of Ticket Club, which does not charge service fees outside of its annual membership). That is $45 more than the “get-in” for tickets through the box office, though fees would be added to that total at checkout – and since TicketNews is based outside of the team’s geographic area, we’re not allowed to see what those fees would bring the total to as we’re not allowed to add the tickets to a shopping cart where the hidden fees would be applied.
This tactic is not entirely unheard of in ticketing, as some organizations seek to gain a PR advantage by claiming a need to restrict ticket purchases to their own local fan base. The Nashville Predators have done the same in previous seasons, and the Los Angeles Rams recently did the same in the NFL playoffs in hopes of keeping out fans of the San Francisco 49ers. But the involvement of a New York Team adds a new wrinkle to things.
New York is a state with some of the most consumer-friendly ticketing laws in the country, including restrictions on what rights-holders can do related to ticket sale and resale. Even before those laws, New York officials went to bat for consumers in the state when a team in another area tried to box fans of their teams out.
In 2008, then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ticketmaster to stand down on a similar policy that was aimed at preventing non-Florida residents from buying tickets to a 2008 playoff game between the Florida squad and the New York Giants.
“It has come to our attention that Ticketmaster had restricted sale of tickets for the upcoming New York Giants versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers football playoff game to be held in Florida this weekend,” reads a statement from Cuomo’s office after a deal was struck. “The Ticketmaster restriction allowed only Florida residents to purchase tickets. We believe Ticketmasters’ restriction raises significant legal issues and was causing consumer frauds in schemes to circumvent the restriction.
“We contacted Ticketmaster about our concerns. Ticketmaster has agreed to immediately eliminate the Florida residency restrictions for purchasing tickets which will now be open to New York and New Jersey residents, as well as other states’ residents. Ticketmaster agreed to immediately change their website to allow such sales to take place. We thank Ticketmaster for its cooperation.”
Cuomo’s language at the time is telling. The use of ticket restrictions of this nature “raises significant legal issues” and causes “consumer frauds in schemes” to circumvent the attempted block. He was unquestionably referring to the fact that any ticket restrictions scheme simply takes consumers outside of legal and protected ticket resale marketplaces and to black market situations that remove all consumer protections, as is proven time and again when governments or event operators look to stifle the legal resale market. And the significant legal issues that were present in 2008 are still here today – if not moreso for New York consumers, who are protected by state law against these kinds of shenanigans by event operators and vendors like Ticketmaster.
It is unclear if current New York Attorney General Letitia James will take similar action on behalf of New York consumers like Cuomo did 14 years ago. Her office has issued no statements indicating plans to fight for New York consumer ticket rights, and a request for comment sent to her office late Tuesday has not received a response as of Wednesday morning.
The playoffs for the Stanley Cup are in full swing, with the second round getting underway Tuesday night. The conference semifinals feature the Rangers and Hurricanes in one Eastern tilt, while the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning take on in-state rival Florida Panthers (who announced plans to break with Ticketmaster in favor of SeatGeek for their primary ticketing next year) in the other. The Western Conference has the Colorado Avalanche taking on the St. Louis Blues in one series, with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers battling in the other.
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