The House of Commons Library Briefing
3 October 2018
The online resale of tickets (the secondary ticketing market) applies to recreational, sporting or cultural events in the UK. Secondary ticketing, especially pricing, is a subject that attracts great public interest. This Commons briefing paper considers recent initiatives to regulate the secondary ticketing market. The Appendix contains detailed information on the background to this issue.
Following the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015), the Government commissioned an independent report by Professor Michael Waterson to explore the effectiveness of consumer protection measures concerning online secondary ticketing facilities. Published in May 2016, Professor Waterson’s report made 9 recommendations to make the ticketing market work better for consumers.
In June 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began a separate compliance review of the secondary ticketing market. This was followed, on 19 December 2016, by the CMA opening an enforcement investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary tickets market.
The Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee have also held two one-off evidence sessions into ticket abuse. The first session took place on 15 November 2016 and considered the problem of software being used to harvest tickets from primary sellers. The CMS Committee held a further one-off evidence session on 21 March 2017.
The Government published its response to Professor Waterson’s report on 13 March 2017. As well as accepting the report’s recommendations in full, the Government said that it intended to respond with proposals which Parliament would be invited to consider within the context of the Digital Economy Bill. Karen Bradley, then Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)), hosted roundtable meetings with enforcement bodies and stakeholders in November 2016.
Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords debated a new clause in the Digital Economy Bill to make it an offence to use digital purchasing software (so-called “bots”) to harvest large numbers of tickets. In the Lords, the clause was withdrawn to allow the Government to publish its response to the Waterson report, and for the CMA to conclude its on-going enforcement investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law on the online secondary tickets market (see above).
At Report Stage a Government amendment to make it an offence to breach limits on ticket sales (both online and other sales) for events in the UK was agreed without division. Lord Moynihan also moved an amendment to amend the CRA 2015 by inserting a duty on re-sellers to provide the ticket reference or booking number when reselling tickets. This amendment was agreed on division.
The Bill received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017.1 In respect of secondary ticketing, the new provisions introduced by the Act will:
- criminalise the use of bots to purchase tickets in excess of a maximum number and puts the ICO’s direct marketing code on a statutory footing; and
- require re-sellers to provide “any unique ticket number that may help the buyer to identify the seat or standing area or its location.”
More recently, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, acted against four secondary ticketing websites in respect of misleading presentation of pricing information.
Quite separately, the CMA began enforcement action against 4 secondary ticketing websites in November 2017. As a result, 3 of those sites offered formal commitments in April 2018 to overhaul the way they do business. On 31 August 2018, the CMAissued court proceedings against Viagogo over concerns it is breaking consumer protection law.
You can find the original briefing and the link below: