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The campaign against paperless tickets

A collection of consumer groups is trying to draw awareness to a type of ticket offered at certain events, mainly concerts, that they say excludes many consumers and prevents anyone who buys that type of ticket from reselling it.

Paperless tickets, also called restricted tickets, are all-electronic and are linked to a credit card used for purchase. Opponents including the Fan Freedom Project argue that the limits placed on users are unfair, requiring a credit card for purchase and effectively preventing either selling or giving away the tickets, or buying them as a gift.

"If there's one thing consumers hate about buying tickets, it's the seemingly endlessly array of fees that are tacked on by Ticketmaster. To add insult to injury, Ticketmaster is now rolling out paperless tickets in an effort to restrict even more what consumers can do with the tickets they buy," said John Breyault, vice president of the National Consumers League, one of the groups campaigning against electronic tickets.

A spokeswoman for Ticketmaster, a division of Live Nation Entertainment (LYV), said that characterization of electronic tickets is unfair. The musical artist and the venue choose the type of tickets to be sold, Ticketmaster Senior Vice President Jacqueline Peterson said. "Ticketmaster doesn't make these decisions."

Concert tours using paperless tickets include Cat Stevens and The Black Keys, according to Fan Freedom.

That type of ticket is typically offered, Peterson said, because an artist wants to keep prices at a certain level rather than watch people gobble them up and hike prices on the secondary market.

"There are very few shows, if any, that are all paperless," Peterson said. She added that anyone who wants to give a ticket as a gift or doesn't have a credit card will have an option. "You don't have to buy that (electronic) ticket," she said. "You can buy a regular standard paper ticket."

She noted that some of the funding for those challenging the tickets comes from eBay (EBAY), which owns the secondary ticket seller StubHub.

"We receive funding from a wide variety of government grants, individuals, businesses -- including eBay -- labor unions, foundations, and [public interest proceeds from consumer lawsuits]," National Consumers League's Breyault said. "All grants are unrestricted and subject to strict rules set down by our board of directors to maintain our independence."

Breyault said consumers should understand the terms of the tickets they're buying when purchasing online.

"Given the number of concerts using paperless tickets, we're encouraging consumers to read the fine print before they click the purchase button," he said. "If plans change at the last minute and you can't go to a show, you may be out of luck and unable to sell, donate or give away your tickets. No one likes scalpers, but there are better ways to help tickets get in the hands of real fans."

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