The beating heart of Mexico’s entertainment industry lies at the Estadio Azteca, the largest stadium in Latin America. Hundreds of thousands of fans throughout its history have cheered on the giants of sports, music, and culture from its grandstands.
Over the weekend, what should have been the triumphant end to Bad Bunny’s World’s Hottest Tour was drowned out by the complaints of hundreds of distraught ticket holders who were left stranded outside its gates.
In response Mexico’s PROFECO, the government body charged with consumer protection, has announced it will be fining Ticketmaster as much as 10 percent of Ticketmaster Mexico’s 2021 revenue.
Hundreds of fans reported that their tickets, allegedly purchased through Ticketmaster, were unceremoniously denied entry to the concert. Many were told that their tickets were either fraudulent or cloned.
Inside the Azteca, large swaths of the typically packed standing room section were visibly bare. Tickermaster released a statement blaming a “high unprecedented number of fake tickets” for the debacle and promised to issue refunds to affected fans.
PROFECO isn’t buying it. The organization put out a call for fans to report instances of wrongfully denied entry, announcing over the weekend that it had identified at least 1,600 instances of duplicated tickets and would be fining the company for “over selling” entries to the concert.
Riccardo Sheffield, head of the agency, indicated in an interview with Mexico’s Radio Formula that the fine and penalties could amount to millions of pesos.
💬 "@Ticketmaster_Me dijo que eran boletos falsificados, pero todos lo emitieron ellos: lo que hicieron fue una sobreventa; va a ser multado, puede ser el 10% de sus ventas del año pasado": Ricardo Sheffield (@SheffieldGto), titular de la Profeco. ▶️ #Informa con @OSCAROLGUIN pic.twitter.com/ekJDOvoKv9
— Grupo Fórmula (@Radio_Formula) December 11, 2022
“As it has been informed, on Friday an unprecedented number of counterfeit tickets, purchased out of our official channels, were presented at the entrances to the venue,” Ticketmaster Mexico said in a statement. “This situation, in addition to confusion among the access control staff, caused temporary intermittence in the access control system, which unfortunately impeded the identification of legitimate tickets for some moments. It is important to highlight that there was no overcrowding or overselling of tickets.”
“Ticketmaster does not tolerate or participate in ticket reselling, which it has historically denounced by our company to the authorities and encouraged actions against it,” the company continued, adding that ticket resale is prohibited by law in Mexico. “Consequently, it repudiates the sale of tickets out of our official channels, where counterfeit tickets are frequently offered; and once again, we encourage fans to avoid buying through resale, given the obvious risks of being defrauded.”
The company added it was collaborating with the investigation by the Consumer Protection Federal Agency, and said that it took “necessary technological and logistical measures” for the concert on Saturday night. “This technical work was what guaranteed the efficient filling of the venue, and the functionality of the access control system,” it stated, and reiterated its apology and encouraged fans with legitimate tickets who were unable to enter the Dec. 9 show to request a full refund by emailing [email protected].
Mexico’s quick action stands in contrast to plodding probes by U.S. lawmakers and regulators. Despite years of consumer complaints regarding Ticketmaster’s monopolistic practices and accusations that its “dynamic pricing system” is little more than glorified price gouging, U.S. lawmakers and the Department of Justice have only recently moved to investigate the company, and the timeline for decisive action is uncertain.
The disastrous rollout of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated Eras drew intense criticisms from American concertgoers against Ticketmaster. Hundreds of thousands of fans attempting to acquire tickets experienced hours-long waits, website crashes, and a pre-sale demand so high Ticketmaster canceled its general sale. On the secondary market, tickets for the tour were being hawked at truly mind bogglingly high prices — like $35,000 for floor seats high.
The debacle revived long standing issues fans have had with the company, most of them stemming from its 2009 merger with LiveNation, which has given the companies a dominant share of the entertainment market within the United States and abroad. A decade and a half later, lawmakers can no longer look past the discontent of fans.
Responding to complaints from frustrated Swifties, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a call for the company to be broken up. “Ticketmaster is a monopoly,” she wrote, “its merger with Live Nation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.”
Ocasio-Cortez later told Rolling Stone that she and other lawmakers “already had concerns about Ticketmaster and monopoly power prior to 2010. But now you’ve got the nation’s largest ticket vendor with the nation’s largest promoter,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Our concerns here can affect everyone. It could affect the artists from being able to conduct the shows the way they want, from promotions to the way that tickets are sold and structured. And it affects fans because they are being absolutely fleeced.”
Pressure from members of Congress prompted the Department of Justice to move forward with a probe into monopolistic practices by Ticketmaster and LiveNation. LiveNation responded with a reminder that the DOJ had itself approved its merger with Ticketmaster, and insisted it remains “the most transparent and fan-friendly ticketing system in the United States.”
It remains unclear if or when the DOJ will announce concrete action against Ticketmaster, but the actions taken by Mexico’s PROFECO demonstrates there is more than one way to secure restitution for jilted fans and penalize mismanagement.
This story was updated on Dec. 13 at 4:45 p.m. to include Ticketmaster Mexico’s statement.