eBay to Ban Resale of Inaugural Tickets
UPDATE: 4 p.m.
eBay Inc. is banning the sale of coveted free tickets to the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama after a U.S. senator said she was crafting a bill to make such online sales a federal crime.
Representatives of the online auction site met with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies this week and came to a mutual decision on the prohibition, said Nichola Sharpe, a spokeswoman for eBay.
“The tickets are free. We felt that it is an official event,” Sharpe said in an interview today. “We think it’s in the best interest of all concerned.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, announced Monday that she was contacting sites, like eBay and Craigslist, to ask them to stop selling the tickets to the Jan. 20 event. She also said she was drafting legislation to criminalize the sales.
There are only 240,000 tickets — not nearly enough to meet the demand of the public, which has flooded members of the House and Senate with ticket requests. The demand for the hot tickets has caused a flurry of online auctioning at exorbitant prices, and Feinstein said she heard reports of tickets going for as much as $40,000.
The tickets will be distributed about a week before the ceremony by members of Congress. They allow people to see the swearing-in from a main viewing area on the National Mall between the West Front of the Capitol and Fourth Street NW.
Tickets currently being offered on eBay will be removed, and the ban extends to eBay’s other online ventures Stubhub and Kijiji, Sharpe said.
eBay is also determining which other inaugural events, including the parade, should be off-limits. The company is awaiting the formation of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which oversees the parade and other events, Sharpe said.
-- Nikita Stewart
November 13, 2008; 2:55 PM ET
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