UK resale sites (with one notable exception) adopt new transparency rules
Three of the UK’s ‘big four’ secondary ticketing sites have formally committed to providing new information – including the identity of ticket sellers and the risk buyers will be turned away at the door – about all tickets resold on their platforms, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced this morning.
Following a nearly year-long investigation, the CMA said last November it would take consider taking legal action against websites it suspected of breaking UK consumer law, giving the sites in question a deadline of spring 2018 to get their houses in order.
According to the competition watchdog, Ticketmaster’s Seatwave and Get Me In! and eBay-owned StubHub UK have now agreed to ensure all ticket listings indicate:
- Whether there is a risk a customer might be turned away at the door
- Which seat in the venue the customer will get
- Who is selling the ticket, so customers can benefit from enhanced legal rights when buying from a business
The three sites have told the CMA they will make it mandatory for sellers to provide this information when listing a ticket, routinely carry out their own checks on primary ticket sellers’ websites about resale restrictions and “act promptly” if event organisers tell them information is missing.
The notable absence, unsurprisingly, is Viagogo, which the CMA says “has not, currently, agreed to make changes the CMA considers necessary. Therefore, the CMA has notified them it will take action through the courts, unless they promptly commit to satisfactorily addressing its concerns.”
“All secondary ticketing websites must play by the rules and treat their customers fairly if anything goes wrong”
CMA raided Viagogo’s offices, along with StubHub’s, last November as part of its investigation into the UK secondary ticketing market.
“Thousands of people use secondary ticketing websites to buy tickets for concerts, theatre and other events, so it’s crucial they are told what they are buying, from whom they are buying it and whether their ticket might not actually get them into the event,” says Michael Grenfell (pictured), the CMA’s executive director for enforcement, commenting on today’s announcement.
“We welcome the changes already made and new commitments we’ve been given by StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In! to improve the information on offer, so that people can better judge whether they’re getting a good deal.
“But all secondary ticketing websites must play by the rules and treat their customers fairly if anything goes wrong. We take failure to comply with consumer protection law very seriously.
“So far Viagogo has failed to address our concerns, and we are determined to ensure they comply with the law. We are prepared to use the full range of our powers to protect customers – including action through the courts.”
FanFair Alliance, which campaigns against ‘industrial-scale’ ticket touting, calls the CMA announcement “vindication for the FanFair Alliance campaign to overhaul the online ticket resale market”.
“It’s disappointing that not all secondary website platforms have followed suit”
Campaign manager Adam Webb says: “UK audiences have been taken for a ride for too long by the biggest secondary platforms and the dedicated touts who fuel their business. They will now be forced to dramatically change their practices and provide proper transparency. This cannot come soon enough.
“It is disappointing, though hardly unexpected, that Viagogo continue to flout the law and mislead the British public. If they fail to follow their competitors and make similar commitments, then we expect to see prosecution for non-compliance at the earliest opportunity.”
In a rare showing of unity for the primary and secondary sectors, Fair Ticketing Alliance (FTA) – the recently launched association of “responsible UK ticket brokers” – also welcomes the changes, saying it’s “delighted” CMA enforcement action has led to reforms by three of the big four.
“The Fair Ticketing Alliance is delighted with the swift action of StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave to improve transparency for customers following action by the Competition and Markets Authority,” says FTA member Scot Tobias. “Undoubtedly, this will improve the experience of live music and entertainment fans using their sites and is precisely in line with what we have been calling for as brokers.
“It’s disappointing, however, that not all secondary website platforms have followed suit. Our members have stopped listing tickets on sites who do not comply with everything set out by the CMA. We urge those sites to do so immediately.
“We want consumers to be able to make clear, informed decisions when buying tickets on the secondary market, and we welcome the CMA’s view that these changes will help people pick the best deals for them. The FTA supports a secondary marketplace that offers choice, trust and flexibility and we believe that today’s announcement is another big step in the right direction.”
‘Responsible’ UK touts form Fair Ticketing Alliance
A group of British secondary ticket sellers have formed the Fair Ticketing Alliance, a new association of “responsible UK ticket brokers” with the stated aim of creating a “fair, trustworthy and flexible ticket market that works for all live entertainment fans”.
Similarly to the NATB’s Protect Ticket Rights campaign in the US, Fair Ticketing Alliance says it will lobby to protect the right of secondary ‘brokers’ to resell tickets, but while “protecting consumer interests” by introducing a system of licensing for trusted and reliable resellers. The organisation is also calling for more transparency in the primary market.
“The ticketing market is currently failing to address the needs of live entertainment fans in the UK,” says association chairman Stephen Lee. “A well-functioning secondary market should correct flaws in the primary market, but we are hamstrung by legal uncertainty that helps neither operators nor consumers.
“We believe responsible commercial operators should be free to resell tickets, like consumers, without unfair restrictions. In return, operators should be properly licensed and comply with the highest standards of ethics.”
Lee is a director of Essex-based ticket resale operation Gigtix Ltd, whose assets totalled £223,798 in the 2016–17 financial year. He is joined by other leading resellers Scot Tobias, Ian Cole and Alistair Cunningham as Fair Ticketing Alliance board members.
“For too long, the secondary ticketing industry has been in the shadows, suffering from a poor reputation, afraid to defend itself. We aim to change that”
In its launch announcement, the alliance lists three core objectives:
1. Greater legal and regulatory clarity about existing UK laws on secondary ticketing
2. Government and regulatory bodies to ensure that secondary website platforms allow brokers to comply fully with the law
3. Changes in UK laws to give responsible, secondary operators the right to resell tickets while protecting consumer interests
Lee says the organisation intends to lobby politicians in order to achieve those objectives, which it claims will “improve the consumer experience while protecting jobs and tax revenues for the government”.
“For too long, the secondary ticketing industry has been in the shadows, suffering from a poor reputation, afraid to defend itself,” he comments. “We aim to change that.
“We’re all extremely passionate and have a deep knowledge of the entertainment areas in which we specialise, which enables us to provide a valuable and necessary service to other live entertainment fans. We just want to do the right thing within the law.
“That’s why we created the Fair Ticketing Alliance. We hope others who support our aims will join us in the campaign to improve the ticketing experience for all fans.”