New York (AFP) - New York has started a crackdown on speculators who charge exorbitant sums for concerts after Bruce Springsteen tickets were touted for thousands of dollars before they even went on sale.
In letters to three major ticket resale websites, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office asked for the removal of so-called speculative tickets put up by sellers who do not -- at least yet -- have them in hand.
Tickets go on sale Friday for a nine-week North American tour by Springsteen and his E Street Band in which the rocker, legendary for his stamina, plans to play his classic 1980 album "The River" in its entirety along with other hits.
Schneiderman voiced alarm that resale sites were already offering tickets for Springsteen's two shows at New York's Madison Square Garden at more than $5,000 each -- dozens of times more than the expected list prices.
"Too often, unscrupulous speculators leave music fans holding the bag with bad tickets or no tickets at all," Schneiderman said Tuesday.
"We may be in the glory days of music, but many fans feel stuck in the badlands when scheming sellers are able to jack up prices for concert tickets they don't even own," he said, quoting two of Springsteen's songs.
Schneiderman did not explicitly threaten legal action but asked the resale sites to offer full explanations of policies toward ticket speculators.
- Still soaring prices elsewhere -
Spokespeople for the three companies -- StubHub, TicketNetwork and Vivid Seats -- reached on Wednesday said that the sites were reviewing the letter without commenting on speculators.
Sector leader StubHub said it guaranteed that every ticket sold on the site was valid for the desired seat and would arrive on time.
"If any of these things do not occur, we will find comparable or better tickets to the event, or provide a refund," it said in a statement.
TicketNetwork described itself as a "secure online marketplace" and said it offered 200 percent back on any illegitimate ticket.
TicketNetwork took down sales for Springsteen's concerts in New York state -- which also include dates in the cities of Albany, Buffalo and Rochester -- and urged other companies to do the same.
But tickets for a January 31 show nearby in Springsteen's native New Jersey were selling for massive prices on TicketNetwork and Vivid Seats, with the most expensive single ticket listed Wednesday at $7,100.
Tickets on StubHub, however, went no higher than $275 on Wednesday.
- Irritant for many artists -
Ticket resale sites have grown rapidly in recent years as concert venues increasingly find it preferable to work with transparent, regulated services rather than leave the trade to shady street scalpers.
But speculative tickets have repeatedly caused angst for artists and fans.
Prince last month abruptly postponed sales for a tour of Europe after spotting high-priced speculative tickets. He later called off the tour following the deadly attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.
Known for challenging music industry conventions, Prince has fought speculators in part by announcing concerts only hours before taking the stage.
Ticket prices routinely rise into the thousands of dollars for top entertainment and sporting events, with American football's Super Bowl generally topping prices.
While reselling individual tickets is largely legal around the United States, jurisdictions have a myriad of regulations.
Speculators fall into a gray area as they do not have the tickets but are gambling they can make a profit as market forces shift prices up and down.
With its giant entertainment industry, New York has among the toughest resale rules, which include a ban on venues accepting only paperless tickets, a measure aimed at giving consumers more control.
But the regulation has critics who say the effect is the opposite. Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, last year canceled a New York show over the ban on paperless tickets which he said empowered scalpers.