The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority has recommended changes to the law in order to better regulate the secondary ticketing market, and also called for ticket resale platforms like Viagogo to be licensed.
The competition regulator was one of two government agencies given a role in regulating the resale of tickets online after several new ticket touting rules were included in the 2015 Consumer Rights Act. National Trading Standards enforced the new rules against individual touts, while the CMA was tasked with ensuring that the resale platforms also complied with the law.
Two of those platforms – Live Nation-owned Seatwave and Get Me In! – ultimately closed down amid rising regulations and increased anti-touting sentiment within the music community. That left StubHub and Viagogo, which both ultimately made a number of changes to their sites to fall in line with UK law, although getting Viagogo to shift required legal action on the CMA’s part.
Anti-touting campaigners argue that the rules continue to be routinely broken, meaning touts and the touting platforms need to be monitored and regulated on an ongoing basis. That would be easier to achieve, the CMA says in a new report today, if some further changes were made to the law.
The regulator adds in a statement: “Whilst the bulk-buying of tickets ahead of real fans by professional resellers – who then sell them at inflated prices – may be illegal, swift and effective action by authorities is not possible under the current law. Similar issues arise in relation to laws which prevent resellers advertising tickets using incorrect information or ‘speculatively selling’ tickets that they don’t own”.
Among the changes the CMA is proposing are a ban on platforms allowing resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market, and new rules ensuring platforms are fully responsible for incorrect information about tickets that are listed for sale on their websites.
It also proposes “a new system of licensing for platforms that sell secondary tickets that would enable an authority to act quickly and issue sanctions such as taking down websites, withdrawing a business’s right to operate in the sector, and the imposition of substantial fines”.
Commenting on the proposals, George Lusty, Senior Director For Consumer Protection at the CMA, says: “Over recent years we have taken strong action to protect people buying tickets from resellers online and the secondary ticket websites are now worlds apart from those we saw before the CMA took action”.
However, he notes, “it is clear that concerns about the sector remain” but “there are limits to what the CMA and other enforcers can do with their current powers”.
“With live music and sporting events starting back up we want the government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms. If adopted, these proposals will help prevent people getting ripped off by unscrupulous resellers online and we stand ready to help the government to implement them”.
The proposals have been welcomed by the anti-touting FanFair Alliance, whose Campaign Manager Adam Webb says: “With the steady return of live music events, this is a welcome and timely report from the Competition & Markets Authority. These proposed changes to regulating the so-called ‘secondary ticketing’ market could have far-reaching future benefits for music fans. We now need to fully digest the implications and viability of introducing their suggested measures”.
However, Webb adds, the CMA should also continue to utilise its existing powers in this domain. “It’s equally important that we’re not distracted from the here and now”, he goes on. “Over the course of the pandemic, FanFair Alliance has continued to send substantial evidence to the CMA detailing a range of serious and current allegations about Viagogo in particular – from systematic breaches of consumer protection law to mass-scale fraud. This has gone on for far too long”.
Noting CMA’s past legal action against Viagogo – and its more recent ruling limiting the extent of Viagogo’s merger with StubHub – Webb concludes: “The CMA still has a court order hanging over this company. Given Viagogo’s wretched history of compliance and ongoing complications around their $4 billion merger with StubHub, it is now even more imperative that these allegations are investigated comprehensively and, if required, decisive enforcement action taken”.
You can download the new CMA report here.
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