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UK’s Competition and Markets Authority to crack down on ticket resellers

By | Published on Tuesday 28 November 2017

Live Music

The UK’s Competition And Markets Authority has announced that it intends to take action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer rights laws – through the courts, if necessary.

As previously reported, the CMA launched an “enforcement investigation” into secondary ticketing in December last year. At the time, the regulatory body said that it intended to “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”.

That “full range of information” includes the transparency obligations on ticket resellers laid out in the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, which campaigners have long argued are not being adhered to by resellers. These include stating the face value of the tickets being sold, information on the seating area, and any restrictions that apply – such as if the tickets are likely to be cancelled if it is discovered that they have been resold.

In a statement this morning, the CMA said that it is now raising concerns with a number of secondary ticketing sites about failure to comply with these rules. Also noting past commitments made by the big ticket resale platforms, it added that it will also be “acting to address a failure by one website to comply fully with formal commitments it had previously given to improve the information provided about tickets advertised on its site”.

As well as this, the body will be expanding the scope of the existing investigation in order to address further concerns raised over the last year. These are pressure selling – misleading customers about the availability of tickets in order to rush them into a decision; speculative selling – offering tickets for sale that the seller does not actually have to sell; difficulties customers have found in claiming refunds; and concerns over primary sellers putting tickets on secondary sites without making this clear to consumers.

Commenting on today’s announcement, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Secondary ticketing websites can offer an important service – by allowing people the chance to buy tickets at the last minute or giving them a chance to re-sell tickets they can no longer use. But our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken”.

“Thousands of people use these sites and they have a right to know if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door, who they’ve bought their ticket from or exactly what seat at the venue they’re getting for their money”, he continued. “We are putting our concerns to these websites and will be requiring the changes necessary to tackle them. We will use the full range of our powers to get the right outcome for these sites’ customers – including taking action through the courts if needed”.

Welcoming all this, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group On Ticket Abuse, Sharon Hodgson MP, said this morning: “It is welcome news that the CMA are now considering enforcement action against the resale platforms – who we know have repeatedly flouted the law of the land – especially after the many years of MPs and campaigners saying just that”.

“What is incredibly interesting from this announcement is the fact that the CMA have widened the scope of their investigations from their original terms after they have seen just how broken this market is and the further action needed to fix it”, she went on. “This is positive news from an agency who is ultimately instructed to protect consumers from companies disregarding their rights and will be an important step in the right direction to finally put fans first in this market, once and for all”.

Meanwhile, the anti-touting campaign FanFair said in a statement: “Today’s CMA announcement that they will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing sites justifies everything FanFair Alliance supporters have campaigned for”.

“Alongside work from the Advertising Standards Authority and National Trading Standards, we are especially pleased the CMA will expand the scope of their investigation. Beyond suspected breaches of consumer protection law, we believe the largest ticket resale platforms are riddled with bad practice, including speculative ticket listings, pressure selling and collusion with large-scale ticket touts”.

It concluded: “It is has taken far too long to get here, but a Sword Of Damocles now hangs over the entire secondary market. If they fail to deliver root-and-branch reforms, we expect the largest resale platforms to face significant consequences”.

This all follows the announcement made by Google last week that from January it will require ticket resellers who wish to use the GoogleAds platform to adhere to new rules globally. Find out more about that onĀ this week’s episode of CMU’s Setlist podcast.