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StubHub responds to launch of new European anti-touting campaign

By | Published on Thursday 24 January 2019


StubHub has responded to the launch last week of a new Europe-wide anti-ticket touting organisation, the Face-value European Alliance For Ticketing. Needless to say, the eBay-owned secondary ticketing site isn’t too excited about the development. In fact, it argues that FEAT’s aims to restrict the resale of tickets by touts for profit online could be harmful to consumers, urging campaigners to focus on the ills of the primary ticketing market instead.

“As a fan first marketplace we are concerned by the rhetoric of the newly formed Face-value European Alliance For Ticketing and its potential to harm consumers, especially as we observe the trend of rising average face value prices”, says Wayne Grierson, Managing Director at StubHub’s northern EMEA division, in a statement.

Arguing that StubHub has “revolutionised the long-existing secondary ticket market by creating a safe, secure and transparent platform for fans to buy and resell tickets”, he says that any legislation to cap resale prices will simply drive secondary ticketing for profit to social media and other websites where it is difficult or impossible to regulate. Which has long been the preferred argument of those in the ticket resale sector countering calls for restrictions to be put on online touting.

Turning to where he thinks campaigners should focus their energies, Grierson continues: “StubHub challenges FEAT to advocate for increased transparency on the primary market. Fans have the right to understand how many tickets are being made available for sale, and when and at what price and whether those prices will fluctuate due to demand. In the state of New York, it was reported that an average of 54% of tickets never even go on public sale and are instead held back by promoters and primary sellers. When consumers have this information available to them, they can make informed purchasing decisions”.

He concluded by praising the new-ish regulations for secondary ticketing in the UK, which are now being enforced by the Competitions And Markets Authority, saying: “This past week in the UK, we’ve seen the positive effects that regulation can have on the consumer experience across the secondary market. Any further regulation should look comprehensively at the entire industry and focus on protecting consumers, not policies that will have negative consequences”.

Responding to StubHub’s arguments, a director of FEAT – MCT-Agentur CEO Scumeck Sabottka – said in a statement this morning: “While we agree on the importance of a secure environment for fans to resell tickets when they can no longer attend a gig, we disagree on the need for this to involve price-hiking to the value of €8 billion annually”.

Noting StubHub’s advocacy of a more transparent ticket-buying experience, he goes on: “FEAT advocates for transparency in ticketing, as our website attests. However, on that subject, we question why it took a CMA investigation for StubHub to commit to telling UK ticket buyers what they are buying, whether they are buying from a business and whether their ticket might not actually get them into the event”.

He concludes: “Both artists and fans want face value resale. We note the closure of Seatwave and GetMeIn! in the UK, the success of face value resale platforms like Twickets in the UK and Spain, and the fact that countries like Ireland are moving towards a face value resale only policy. We hope StubHub will catch this wave and work with organisations like ours towards a resale ecosystem that is truly fan first”.

The UK developments in the “past week” referred to by Grierson relate, of course, to the passing of the CMA’s deadline for secondary ticketing sites to comply with various specific elements of UK consumer rights law. StubHub voluntarily agreed to meet the CMA’s demands, while a court order was secured forcing its rival Viagogo to fall in line. Viagogo then claimed ahead of last week’s deadline that it was now totally compliant, although critics – including some in the secondary ticketing market – say that this is not the case.

As that deadline passed, the CMA also published an open letter to event organisers, outlining their responsibilities under UK law in the resale domain. In particular, it explains exactly what and how information should be displayed at the primary ticketing stage if promoters plan to restrict the resale of tickets on the secondary market. Particularly if they plan to cancel tickets that they know have been touted.

Elsewhere in StubHub news, a major eBay shareholder, the Elliott Management Corporation, has called on the wider business to enact a plan that it believes will boost the firm’s share price. This includes spinning the “thriving” StubHub off into its own company, rather than it operating as a subsidiary of eBay itself.