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UK accepts Waterson recommendations, bans bots

Industry and consumer groups have welcomed news the UK government is to implement the recommendations made in the Waterson report, including a complete ban on bots

By IQ on 13 Mar 2017

Alex Neill, Which?

Alex Neill of Which? says UK authorities must "make sure this crackdown really works"

image © Consumers' Association

As promised in October, the British government has published its long-awaited response to last year’s Waterson report into secondary ticketing, accepting Prof. Michael Waterson’s recommendations in full – including a total ban on ticket bots.

The government’s commitment is described by anti-ticket touting group FanFair Alliance as “extensive”, and includes an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to criminalise the use of bots to bulk-buy tickets, with potentially unlimited fines for those who break the new law.

Other measures include a substantial investment in consumer-protection agency National Trading Standards, and renewed pressure on four secondary ticketing sites – StubHub, Viagogo and Ticketmaster’s Seatwave and Get Me In! – to identify touts and make clear to consumers when tickets are being sold on the secondary market.

FanFair’s campaign manager, Adam Webb, comments: “A crackdown on the misuse of bot technology to bulk-buy tickets will be hugely important in helping clean up this market, but of equal significance is government’s blanket acceptance of recommendations in the Waterson review, which, if implemented, should lead to greater transparency.

“Banning bots is a step towards ensuring the ticketing market for live events works more fairly for gig-goers”

“That aspect is absolutely vital. Only with proper enforcement of the law will this market work in favour of consumers.”

Alex Neill, managing director of home services at the Consumers’ Association/Which?, also welcomes the news. “Banning bots is a welcome move, as it should give genuine fans a better chance of getting tickets for popular events,” he says. “Ticketing sites must have much more robust protections in place to combat bots, and the competition authorities now need to make sure that this crackdown really works and take strong action against anyone who breaks the law.”

In a response sent to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), industry umbrella group UK Music writes: “UK Music is pleased that government is responding to industry representations and is now acting on the recommendations of the Waterson review.

“The use of bots to bulk-buy tickets amounts to industrial-scale touting. Massive profit is made by people who are taking value out of the music industry and putting tickets out of the reach of music fans. Banning bots is a step towards ensuring the ticketing market for live events works more fairly for gig-goers.”

“Of equal significance is government’s blanket acceptance of recommendations in the Waterson review, which should lead to greater transparency”

Jonathan Brown, chief executive of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), says: “Over the last ten months, STAR has been very focused on progressing the recommendations made to the primary ticket market in Professor Waterson’s excellent 2016 review of the secondary ticket market. With the co-operation of DCMS, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), we facilitated two meetings to enable the entertainment industry to discuss those recommendations and consider further actions. In addition to STAR and the organisations mentioned above, those meetings were attended by representatives of other entertainment industry bodies with an interest and responsibility for the primary ticket market.

“The meetings were a step towards fulfilling some of the recommendations made in the review, particularly in discussing with the CMA fair terms and conditions around the resale of tickets. STAR therefore very much welcomes the government’s commitment to improving the secondary ticket market for consumers by accepting and acting on the recommendations made by Professor Waterson.”

Richard Davies of face-value ticket resale site Twickets, meanwhile, says the government action is “heartening” but reiterates his calls for for-profit resale to be banned outright. “It’s heartening to hear that after years of campaigning, the government appears to have gotten the bit between its teeth on clamping down on the profiteering rife within the secondary market,” he comments.

“The news that Trading Standards will be funded to enforce these measures and that Waterson’s other recommendations have been accepted in full are also welcome, though we urge the government to go further and ban secondary ticketing for profit outright.”


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