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Rebel Tory MP calls for less ticket tout regulation

By | Published on Thursday 15 October 2015

Houses of Parliament

While critics of online ticket touting hope that a review of secondary ticketing announced by the government this week might result in more regulation, some are pushing for less.

As previously reported, the Department Of Culture, Media & Sport has announced that economist Michael Waterson will lead a review of the secondary ticketing domain. The review is a requirement of the Consumer Rights Act which was passed by Parliament earlier this year. That Act included some new regulation of the ticket resale industry, though not all the new rules proposed by those who see rampant touting as being “anti-fan” were included amidst opposition in the House Of Commons.

Those campaigners will now be hoping that Waterson’s review will call for further regulation, but there remain some vocal critics to anti-touting laws, who criticise both existing rules and future possible additions.

Among them are outspoken Conservative MP Philip Davies, who says of Waterson’s review: “Now that a chair of the government’s ticket review is in place, it is imperative that a proper review of the entire market is carried out. As an economist, Professor Waterson will know that the regulations introduced in the Consumer Rights Act have done little to bring down prices, instead harming fans by making it easier for their tickets to be cancelled”.

Davies shares the opinion of the secondary ticketing companies themselves, that increased regulation will simply send the touts to places where no regulation exists at all – either online operations abroad or old school street-based touting – where consumers have even less protection.

Says the MP: “The government needs to realise that needless intervention is not the answer and will only serve to drive many consumers away from safe online platforms and into the arms of street touts. Any regulations in this area therefore need to be carefully thought through and firmly guided by the available evidence”.

Davies will be a useful supporter for Fan Freedom UK, a pro-tout lobby group that grew out of a sister organisation in the US earlier this year, and which has received some funding from eBay’s secondary ticketing business StubHub. It will tell Waterson that no more regulation is required, and may even criticise those extra rules included in this year’s Consumer Rights Act.

A statement from the group earlier this week included a quote from Stefano Ficco from economic regulation consultancy Europe Economics, who previously produced a paper on secondary ticketing for the DCMS. He says: “While many might feel that more regulation of the secondary ticket market is an appropriate answer, economic principles indicate that this is often not the case. State intervention more often than not sees the black market thrive, as people move away from trusted online platforms and over to the unscrupulous touts”.

So while the vocal anti-tout brigade in the music community will be hoping that the new review on secondary ticketing could further regulate online ticket reselling, they will have to combat their less publicly vocal opponents who are busy lobbying in Whitehall and Westminster.