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MPs from all parties call on government to back ticket tout bots ban

By | Published on Tuesday 29 November 2016

Ban The Bots and Touts Out

In a bid to maintain the momentum in Westminster that could lead to tighter regulation of the secondary ticketing market in the UK, a cross-party group of MPs joined with reps from the music industry yesterday for a photo-call as the Digital Economy Bill reached its ‘report stage’ in Parliament.

It is hoped a bots ban can be inserted into that piece of legislation, and yesterday’s gathering called on government ministers to now back that move. As much previously reported, Nigel Adams MP first proposed amending the DEB last month so to include a ban of the kind of software used by industrial-level touts to buy up large quantities of tickets.

Those proposals were initially put on hold after ministers said that they wanted to investigate if the Computer Misuse Act already outlawed such software, but following a Culture, Media And Sport Select Committee hearing on the secondary market, introducing a specific bots-ban is now back on the agenda.

Although Adams and his fellow Conservative Damian Collins MP, the current Chair of the Culture, Media And Sport Select Committee, have been most vocal on ticket touting in recent months, the latest move to further regulate the secondary market – or better enforce existing regulations – has cross-party support.

Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who has campaigned on this issue for years, most recently via the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse she co-chairs, which pushed for the ticket resale regulations that were added to 2015 Consumer Rights Act, backs the latest proposals. As does Labour Deputy Leader and Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson, who also attended yesterday’s photo-call outside Parliament.

From the music community, industry backers of the anti-tout FanFair Alliance were in attendance, as was recently appointed Featured Artists Coalition CEO Imogen Heap and Josh Franceschi of You Me At Six, who gave an artist’s perspective at the aforementioned hearing of the culture select committee.

Franceschi has also appeared on the BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’ show to speak out against the touts and call for new regulation. Declaring that “if there is one thing threatening the music industry today, it’s ticket touts”, the You Me At Six man noted: “When a gig is announced, fans head to primary ticket websites often to be told the show is sold out, when most of the time it’s not. It’s the touts that have bought the tickets, forcing fans to pay hiked up prices on secondary websites”.

He went on: “These secondary websites masquerade as fan-to-fan market places, but as we highlighted at the select committee, they are all dependent on hardcore ticket touts. One of StubHub’s major clients was recently outed as a man from Quebec, who is still scalping and reselling thousands of tickets to UK events. Enough is enough. Genuine fans are being priced out of the equation, music lovers are consumers too and consumers have rights”.

He concluded: “In New York, legislation is in place and the UK must follow suit too – those profiteering should face prison or a fine. And this goes beyond consumer protection, it is about cultural access. The music industry is already suffering from a lack of money coming into it in other ways. If we want the live community to thrive we need this to change”.

Meanwhile, back in Westminster yesterday, Hodgson told reporters she was pleased there was cross-party support for further action in the touting domain “after many years of campaigning on the many issues in the ticketing industry which are locking fans out of seeing their favourite artist, sports team or theatre show”.

She added: “The chorus of concerns from industry, fans and parliamentarians alike is becoming hard for the government to ignore. It’s time the government acted”.

Adams echoed Hodgson’s call for government support for the bot ban amendment, saying: “It’s time for the government to act on industrial scale ticket touting to protect genuine music fans. Criminalising the use of ‘bots’ by touts to buy up large numbers of tickets is a good place to start”.

The proposed amendment was subsequently discussed in Parliament, with Adams reporting on Twitter that culture minister Matt Hancock “says government WILL take action if necessary on bots after meeting with industry later this week”.

This will please the aforementioned FanFair Alliance, though for them the bots ban is very much just the start, something Campaign Manager Adam Webb noted during yesterday’s event, saying: “Criminalising the misuse of bots would disarm some of the worst online ticket touts – but it is important that government does not stop there. We also need proper enforcement of consumer law to disrupt the touts’ overall business practices and bring transparency to the secondary ticketing sites that they operate from”.