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Tackling Ticket Touts

The way ahead for event ticketing is about tackling the online touts.

Professor Michael Waterson, Department of Economics, Warwick

Like most people, when I’m looking to buy tickets for an event, I spend time online researching prices and seating options. For most events, tickets are available from event organisers, primary agents and secondary resellers who buy tickets from primary agents for resale.

Whilst it is still possible to see people outside venues for popular events buying and selling tickets, the Internet has fundamentally changed the ticketing environment.

Like so many aspects of the Internet, it brings both advantages and disadvantages to the industry. It has certainly made it easier for people to buy tickets and enabled the resale market to thrive, as secondary sellers, both legitimate and illicit, filling a gap in the market and making a large profit.

I was therefore intrigued when, in Autumn 2015, I was invited by the Secretaries of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Culture, Media and Sport to lead a review into consumer protection measures relating to the online ticket resale market (the secondary ticketing market) for recreational, sporting or cultural events.

My research was based on information collated from members of the public, ticketing industry experts, event organisers and parliamentarians. The divergence of views was incredibly wide and complex. The research focused on outlining issues and legalities around the selling and reselling of event tickets and considered whether the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) satisfactorily addressed these issues.

I initially looked at tickets from primary agents, which are normally at a fixed price and if the event is cancelled a full refund or entrance to a future event is offered. However, once purchased, they can often be resold by the secondary ticketing market at whatever prices they choose.

The event organiser’s ability to control the price and allocation process is then significantly reduced.

These tickets commonly provide a similar right to entry and most online purchasers of resold tickets through secondary sales sites experience no problem. However, the prices are often significantly above the face value and come with additional commission fees of up to 30 per cent.

We also examined illegal websites, which can falsely appear to be a reputable source of tickets, taking people’s money and then disappearing before the tickets are produced! It was here we found a need for further regulation. image

It is a complex market but the introduction of stricter terms and conditions on ticket sales and price caps were areas we covered. However, the success of such policies depends on the effort the organiser is willing to make. Adele’s recent UK tour was one example where the organisers did control and carefully manage ticketing through primary sites.

One thing that surprised me is that, although new legislation had come into effect in 2015, no attempt had been made to enforce this legislation, so doing so became one of my key recommendations, along with pursuit of traders acting under cloak of anonymity and traders or sites breaking other existing legislation. I proposed that dedicated funds be provided to facilitate this.

My 226-page report made a series of recommendations to improve operation of the CRA with regards to secondary ticketing. and I’m pleased to say that in April 2018 the Government introduced new rules which require all secondary sellers to give detailed information about their tickets, including the Unique Ticket Number, original price, seat location and any applicable restrictions. Finally, an amendment to the Digital Economy Act in 2018 gave regulators the power to criminalise mass purchases of tickets using bots.


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