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Digital Economy Bill signed into law

The Digital Economy Bill 2016-17, which criminalises the use of ticket bots in the UK, has received royal assent and become law.

The bill, which also includes provisions relating to online pornography, direct marketing, digital intellectual property and increasing broadband speed, prohibits the misuse of an “electronic communications network” or “electronic communications service” to bulk-buy tickets.

It also builds on the Consumer Rights Act 2015 by requiring secondary ticket sellers to provide a “unique ticket number that may help the buyer to identify the seat or standing area or its location”.

Matt Hancock, the UK’s minister of state for digital and culture (pictured), says he’s “delighted the Digital Economy Act has become law”, saying the legislation will provide “better support for consumers” and “help build a more connected and stronger economy”.

Anti-ticket touting group FanFair Alliance has welcomed the news, but cautioned that the effectiveness of the bill “will be for nothing” without proper enforcement.

“It is now vital that the UK’s consumer laws are enforced, and recommendations made in the Waterson review are fully implemented”

“On top of government measures to criminalise the bulk-buying of tickets, this relatively minor amendment to the Consumer Rights Act, for a ‘unique ticket number’ to be displayed when a ticket is listed for resale, should greatly increase transparency in the so-called secondary ticketing market,” it said in a statement.

“If enforced, it will give users some assurances that the ticket they are buying actually exists, as well as disrupting the practices of hardcore touts that thrive on sites like Viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave. FanFair Alliance would like to thank everyone who has supported us in campaigning for these changes – and particularly Nigel Adams MP, Sharon Hodgson MP, Lord Moynihan, Baroness Hayter, Lord Clement-Jones, Lord Stevenson, the late Baroness Heyhoe-Flint and members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“We were also heartened that the culture minister has clarified unequivocally that secondary platforms must provide information of any resale restrictions. Going forward, it is now vital that the UK’s consumer laws are enforced, and recommendations made in the Waterson review of secondary ticketing are fully implemented.

“After the general election [on 8 June], we will need details on how all these changes will work in practice. Only then, and combined with a concerted effort from industry and regulators, will this broken market be fixed and British audiences provided with the open and properly functioning resale market they deserve.”

 


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Lords vote for further UK resale regulation

The British government was yesterday defeated by the House of Lords on an amendment anti-touting campaigners say will significantly strengthen obligations to consumers by secondary ticketing sites.

The snappily titled amendment 33ZLZA to the Digital Economy Bill is opposed by the government, which backs the recommendations made in the Waterson report, an independent review which recommended no new legislation in favour of proper enforcement of the existing Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015.

However, members of Britain’s unelected – but politically balanced – upper house yesterday voted 180–157 in favour of the amendment, which would require sites such Seatwave, Get Me In!, StubHub and Viagogo to provide the ticket reference or booking number, as well as any specific condition attached to the resale of the ticket.

Under the CRA, secondary sites are already obliged to list the original face value, seat/row numbers and any usage restrictions.

The bill goes back to the House of Commons (elected, controlled by the government) next month for MPs to either approve or reject the amendments made by the Lords.

“This is not about a cap on resale prices. It is perfectly within the conclusions … of the Waterson report to move ahead with this simple but effective remedy”

Addressing the Lords yesterday, Conservative peer Lord Moynihan said: “We do not want to ban the [secondary] market, although noble Lords did so for the Olympic Games in London 2012. Similarly, this is not about a cap on resale prices. It is perfectly within the conclusions [of], and the government’s response to, the Waterson report, to move ahead with this simple but effective remedy.

“It is not costly; it is about the cost of a phone call […] to say: ‘Your original ticket had a unique reference number on it. I want to check that the one I have bought from StubHub or one of the other secondary sites is for real. Can you tell me whether that same number, which does not exist on there – or they have put another number on it – is for real before I incur a lot of costs?’. It is a simple additional consumer protection measure which does not cost anything.

“It would look after consumers – in this context, particularly fans of sport and fans of music – which is what we should be all about.”

Anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance is also in favour of the amendment. “Despite concerted media and political scrutiny, the resale of tickets on platforms like Viagogo, Get Me In!, Seatwave and StubHub remains wholly lacking in transparency,” says FanFair’s Adam Webb. “This is the only online marketplace where buyers are given no identity about sellers – a peculiarity which is massively helpful to touts whose activities are anonymised, but not so much to consumers. It’s is a recipe for bad practice at best, and outright fraud at worst.

“That’s why this small amendment to the Consumer Rights Act is so important, as it could help provide more certainty that a ticket actually exists in the first place, as well as crucial details about terms and conditions of resale. FanFair Alliance warmly welcomes the Lords’ decision last night, and alongside the other recent commitments we look forward to further discussions with government about how ticket resale can be made more transparent, honest and consumer-friendly.”

 


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