Consumers—the backbone of the American economy—are all too often underrepresented in government or prevented from full economic participation. As chair of the New York City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs, I am concerned about the impact that restrictive ticketing policies have on the consumer, particularly those who live in underbanked areas and do not possess a credit or debit card.
Restrictive ticketing is essentially the practice of requiring that a credit card be used to make a ticket purchase or presented to gain entry to a concert or sporting event. Increasingly, tickets are only available for sale online rather than at a box office where cash purchases can be made. These two practices negatively impact the unbanked segment of our population, which the city's Office of Financial Empowerment estimates to be 825,000 New Yorkers.
The alarming number of city residents without a bank account reflects a larger concern regarding the lack of access to traditional forms of banking in low-income neighborhoods. Although access to banking is a paramount issue in underserved areas, reforming the policy on restrictive ticketing would help until the larger issue can be addressed.
The premise for restrictive ticketing is as a recourse to ticket scalping, but the practice has unintentional consequences. Restricting the use of a ticket to the owner of the credit card used to purchase it prevents sharing or gifting, and effectively ends the popular practice of donating tickets to schools and community groups for fundraisers.
As technology continues to make some lives easier, we must be mindful of the difficulties it can create for others. A policy requiring you to have a credit card in order to take your family to a game or concert is misguided and disproportionately impacts low-income consumers.
The growing national trend of restrictive ticketing may be seen by some as a way to address illegal resale, but it also fails to put the consumer first. There are already laws prohibiting scalping, and they should be enforced. Now is the time for government to work with the business community to construct policies that better address the core issue of ticket scalping while maintaining equal access for all consumers.
New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal is chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. He represents Brooklyn's 37th District, which is comprised of Cypress Hills, Bushwick, City Line, Oceanhill-Brownsville and East New York.