Business News Legal Live Business

Competition And Markets Authority launches “enforcement investigation” into secondary ticketing sites

By | Published on Tuesday 20 December 2016

Ticket touts

The Competition And Markets Authority – or the CMA to its closest friends – yesterday announced it was launching an ‘enforcement investigation’ into, and I quote, “suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary tickets market”. This, the competition regulator said, “follows concerns that people are not getting the full range of information required by law when buying tickets put up for resale”.

The CMA was already reviewing the four main secondary ticketing sites in the UK – Viagogo, eBay’s StubHub and Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s Seatwave and Get Me In! – to check if they were complying with undertakings they had previously made to improve the information they provide about tickets for sale on their sites. The authority said yesterday that that review concluded one of the four sites had more work to do, while the other three had changed their websites so to fall in line with their undertakings.

However – much like when Parliament’s culture select committee sat down to discuss the bots used by ticket touts to access tickets – that initial review of the ticketing market has thrown up all sorts of other concerns. “The review also revealed wider concerns about information provision and compliance with consumer protection law across the sector as a whole”, the CMA said, hence its new and more significant enforcement investigation.

Confirming this new investigation will look into the industrial-level touts themselves as well as the resale sites, the authority continued: “In this enforcement investigation the CMA will consider whether, in its view, both the businesses selling tickets and the secondary ticketing platforms advertising them are failing to provide the full range of information in breach of the law and, if so, take enforcement action. In addition, the CMA is also working with event organisers to help ensure that any terms used to restrict the resale of their tickets are fair for consumers”.

The new CMA investigation comes as the secondary ticketing market – and especially industrial-level touts and the resale platforms they utilise – come under increased pressure from lawmakers and those in the industry who would like to see rampant ticket touting abolished. The use of ticket touting bots could soon be outlawed in the Digital Economy Bill and it’s hoped ministers will announce plans to ramp up the day-to-day enforcement of existing secondary ticketing regulation when they respond to the government’s own Waterson Report on the sector in the new year.

Confirming its new investigation yesterday, the CMA’s acting CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “A night out at a concert or a trip to a big match is something that millions of people look forward to. So it’s important they know who they are buying from and whether there are any restrictions that could stop them using the ticket. We have heard concerns about a lack of transparency over who is buying up tickets from the primary market. We also think that it is essential that those consumers who buy tickets from the secondary market are made aware if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door”.

He added: “We have therefore decided to open a sector-wide investigation to ensure that customers are made aware of important information that they are legally entitled to. If we find breaches of consumer law, we will take enforcement action”.

Sharon Hodgson, the Labour MP who has been calling for better regulation of the secondary ticketing market for years, and who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, welcomed the CMA’s announcement. She said yesterday: “It is welcome that there will now finally be enforcement of the consumer rights legislation on the statute book and the undertakings agreed between the big four and the CMA. The non-compliance evidence found by the CMA backs up the often daily accounts, both online and in the press, that fans are being ripped off or not getting all the information they need when buying off secondary websites. This is one part of a multi-faceted problem in this broken market”.

Referencing the secondary ticketing regulation she helped get into last year’s Consumer Rights Act, Hodgson added: “We know that non-compliance is rife within the market, and now that the Consumer Rights Act has been on the statute book for over a year, it is paramount that enforcement action is taken seriously and swiftly. Alongside this, we need to see the government taking action on the issue of bulk purchasing of tickets for the sole intention of resale, otherwise this market will remain broken and fans will be continually ripped off”.

Meanwhile the music industry’s anti-tout campaign FanFair also welcomed the CMA’s new investigation, while also again calling on the government to respond to Waterson. It told reporters yesterday: “An enforcement investigation into online secondary ticketing is to be welcomed. Gig goers need transparency. They should know when the terms and conditions on their tickets prevent resale, and we welcome proper enforcement of the existing law so that real fans have a fair chance to buy tickets and stop them being scooped up by touts”.

It went on: “The CMA looking at who these ‘professional sellers’ are and how they obtain their tickets is a positive development. However, UK audiences will be continue to be frustrated that measures to genuinely fix ticket resale are not being taken sooner – and while other countries take swift and decisive actions, British fans continue to be ripped off by touts operating under cover on the big four resale sites. We call on the government to respond to recommendations made in the Waterson Review on secondary ticketing, and welcome the potential of a full inquiry by the [culture] select committee in the new year”.

As previously reported, FanFair is also encouraging artist managers, promoters, agents and ticketing platforms to sign up to a ‘declaration’ which “asks that supporters take five actions to ensure face value tickets reach fans, as well as measures to disrupt the practices of online ticket touts”.

Following the news yesterday that See Tickets had signed up to that, another major primary ticketing firm, Eventim, has also now backed the declaration, as have and Resident Advisor. Very soon that’ll be pretty much every primary ticketing firm on board except, well, you know who.

Premium CMU subscribers can catch up on all the other recent developments in the secondary ticketing debate via the latest CMU Trends article here.