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CMA to take action against ‘law-breaking’ secondaries

The UK consumer watchdog is cracking down on ticket resale sites it believes to be in breach of consumer law, warning they could ultimately end up in court

By Jon Chapple on 28 Nov 2017

Andrea Coscelli, CMA

image © Government Digital Service

The UK’s Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) is to take ‘enforcement action’ against ticket resale websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law.

Following an almost year-long investigation, which included the raiding of Viagogo and StubHub’s UK offices, the CMA announced this morning it has “identified widespread concerns about the information people are given” during the ticket-buying process, and has gathered evidence it believes reveals numerous breaches of consumer law. The consumer watchdog will therefore be “raising its concerns” with the websites concerned and requiring them to take action – including listing seat numbers, any restrictions on resold tickets and the identity of the seller – to comply with the relevant legislation.

The CMA has also, in light of new information, widened the scope of its original investigation to include speculative selling, where sellers list tickets they do not yet own; ‘pressure selling’, wherein sites such as Viagogo rush customers by implying tickets are about to sell out; whether event organisers are passing tickets directly to secondary sites; and the difficulties experienced by many customers in reclaiming money under a website’s guarantee.

IQ understands the sites in question have a deadline of spring 2018 to comply or risk legal action.

“We will use the full range of our powers to get the right outcome for these sites’ customers”

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli (pictured) says: “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 resell 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.

“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.”

Additionally, the CMA says it will be acting to address a failure by one website to comply with commitments it had given previously to improve the information provided about listed tickets.

“It is has taken far too long to get here, but a sword of Damocles now hangs over the entire secondary market”

While the organisation makes clear it has “not yet reached a final view” on whether the practices it has identified definitely breach consumer protection law – something only a court could decide – anti-touting group FanFair Alliance welcomes the crackdown, saying it “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,” reads a FanFair statement. “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 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.”

Alex Neill, managing director or home products and services at consumer advocacy group Which?, adds: “With people increasingly finding that they have to buy tickets through secondary sites, it’s right that the competition authorities are taking action against companies that aren’t playing by the rules. Our research has found many websites breaking consumer law by not listing the face value of, or restrictions on, tickets as well as key information, such as block, row and seat numbers.

“It is particularly encouraging to see that the CMA have broadened their investigation to span additional issues such as pressure selling and speculative selling”

“This action must now lead to much greater transparency so that consumers have a better chance of getting the best tickets for popular events.”

“We welcome the CMA’s move to deepen their investigation into the secondary ticketing market, including commencing action against one site,” comments Richard Davies, founder of face-value ticket exchange Twickets. “It is particularly encouraging to see that the CMA have broadened their investigation to span additional issues such as pressure selling and speculative selling, which have plagued consumers for far too long.

“We look forward to seeing further action being enforced to ensure that fans are better protected against the unscrupulous practices of touts.”

Vibe Tickets founder and MD Luke Massie says: “The secondary ticketing market is fundamentally broken due to the lack of transparency. This is an ongoing issue that is costing genuine fans and threatening the live music industry.

“The only way to tackle this issue is to create a fully transparent community, where all users are verified and genuine fans are free to speak directly to other like-minded individuals, negotiate a fair price for a ticket and purchase them online in a safe and secure environment. The average £1m worth of transactions that occur on the Vibe platform each month show that this is what fans want, and it’s encouraging that the CMA is forcing other industry players to follow suit.”


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