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Ticketmaster teams with scalpers to rip you off, report says. Firm says no way

The company calls an assertion by investigative journalists at The Toronto Star and CBC News "categorically untrue."

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Ticketmaster is reportedly recruiting professional scalpers in order to get more money from customers and expand its resale business, according to undercover investigations by CBC News and The Toronto Star published Wednesday.

In July, reporters from the publications went undercover at an industry convention called Ticket Summit in Las Vegas. Ticketmaster representatives told the journalists that its resale division doesn't report scalpers who use bots and fake identities to buy several tickets and resell them at a higher price on the site. Ticketmaster makes money from the extra resale fees. 

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"I have brokers that have literally a couple of hundred accounts," a Ticketmaster sales representative told the reporters, according to CBC. "It's not something that we look at or report."

Within the last year, Ticketmaster created a ticket sales tool called TradeDesk, which reportedly lets scalpers upload the tickets they buy from the company's site and quickly put them up for resale. They can easily raise or drop prices on several tickets based on demand. 

Ticketmaster's terms of use say customers can't "order a number of tickets for an event that exceeds the stated limit for that event." That number is usually six or eight tickets. The general terms and conditions also say, "Use of automated means to purchase tickets is strictly prohibited."

Still, resellers who break those rules reportedly won't get in trouble.

"We don't spend any time looking at your Ticketmaster.com account. I don't care what you buy. It doesn't matter to me," a TradeDesk sales executive told The Star. "There's total separation between Ticketmaster and our division. It's church and state ... We don't monitor that at all."

In a statement to CNET, Ticketmaster said, "It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers." The company added that it doesn't condone the statements its  resale division employee made to CBC, "as the conduct described clearly violates our terms of service." 

Ticketmaster said it began an internal review of its professional reseller accounts and employee practices "to ensure that our policies are being upheld by all stakeholders. Moving forward we will be putting additional measures in place to proactively monitor for this type of inappropriate activity."

Ticketmaster has a "buyer abuse" division that monitors suspicious activity, but a presenter at the convention reportedly said the resale division doesn't call out users of TradeDesk.

"We don't share reports, we don't share names, we don't share account information with the primary site. Period," he told CBC.

Allegations about Ticketmaster working with scalpers emerged following a 2017 lawsuit the company filed, which claims three ticket brokering companies used bots to "improperly procure tickets for the purpose of reselling them at a substantial profit." 

Prestige Entertainment West Inc., one of the companies, responded by claiming that Ticketmaster uses its site to "deceive consumers and line its pockets from double-dip commissions." It alleged the majority of resale activity is obvious, yet Ticketmaster doesn't do anything to prevent it. It also claimed Ticketmaster uses bots on its site. 

Ticketmaster denied those claims.

Ticketmaster executives have said resellers are a problem, and that it uses its Verified Fan algorithm on popular shows to determine whether to sell someone a ticket. 

First published Sept. 19, 2:05 p.m. PT.
Update, Sept. 20 at 10:55 a.m.: Adds comment from Ticketmaster.