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UK parliament recommends fresh ticketing inquiry

The CMS Committee says an investigation is needed into "far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market", including alleged collusion between primary ticketers and touts

By IQ on 16 Nov 2016

Damian Collins MP, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Damian Collins MP, chair of the CMS Committee

image © Damian Collins

The British parliament’s Culture Media and Sport (CMS) Committee, which yesterday heard evidence from managers, artists and ticketing companies in a session on ‘ticket abuse’, has recommended a fresh investigation into “the whole area of ticketing” in response to “far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market”.

In a statement, issued this morning, the committee says it was “aware of the distortion of the ticketing markets caused by the use of technology (bots and software) to ‘harvest’ large numbers of tickets as soon as they went on general sale”, but that evidence from those opposed to the current resale market – and unsatisfactory responses from the ticketing companies represented – “led us to conclude that a fuller investigation of the whole area of ticketing is needed”.

The session brought to light “clear indications of too-close relationships between those selling tickets on the primary market and sellers on the secondary market,” reads the statement, which also criticises’ “witnesses’ failure to give satisfactory answers to the committee’s questions about where companies’ main profits are made, the possibility of even Chinese walls between parts of the same company and the willingness of the ticket selling companies to even try to identify, let alone bar, large-scale ticket touts and fraudulent sellers”.

A roundtable discussion, headed by secretary of state for culture, media and sport Karen Bradley and previously only announced as taking place “before Christmas”, will be held at the end of November.

“We will decide how best to take the issues forward once we know the outcome of this,” says the committee, “and in light of the conclusion of a Competition and Marketing Authority [sic] investigation, expected shortly, into whether ticket companies are complying with the law.

“This is fantastic news for all UK music fans and those who have campaigned so long for action …Yesterday, the dysfunctional market and bad practices of the big four secondary ticketing websites were laid bare”

“In the meantime, we will be writing to the secretary of state urging her to study the evidence given to us about the under-reporting of income by known touts and to raise this with HMRC [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs] as an area which warrants their investigation.”

Despite the committee being unimpressed by the ticketing company witnesses – StubHub was, said MPs, “not doing anything to check who [the people selling tickets on your site] are”, while Ticketmaster UK’s Chris Edmonds was told “you are not helping yourselves”, in response to his admission that tickets for Phil Collins’ upcoming UK tour, for which resale is prohibited, are listed on Ticketmaster/Live Nation-owned Get Me In! – all present agreed on the need to ban the use of ticket bots. “We intend to table an amendment on the report stage of the Digital Economy Bill later this month to effect this,” says the committee.

A spokesman for the FanFair Alliance welcomed the news. “This is fantastic news for all UK music fans and those who have campaigned so long for action,” he says in a statement.

“Yesterday, the dysfunctional market and bad practices of the Big Four secondary ticketing websites were laid bare before members of the Culture Media and Sport Committee. We anticipate that a fuller investigation of this market will lead to much-needed reform. The FanFair Alliance fully supports further actions into the fraudulent activities of online ticket touts and the industrial abuse of this market, as well as an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to ban the misuse of bots.”


Nigel Adams, the MP for Selby and Ainsty, who sits on the Culture Media and Sport Committee, tells IQ today he doesn’t expect the government to respond to the Waterson report until after the roundtable discussion later this month.

When asked if he shares Ian McAndrew’s view that primary ticketing companies passing to the secondary market are violating existing consumer legislation, Adams says that “may well be the case” and will be discussed with Bradley.

He also calls more transparency from promoters and ticketers into how many tickets are actually available to the general public.



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