"We’re determined to make sure 2018 is the year we help real fans get the chance to see their favourite music"
The Government has this week unveiled new legislation which bans touts from using bots to buy tickets in bulk.
It is now a criminal offence to use automated technology to purchase large amounts of tickets to then be sold on at inflated prices.
Under the Digital Economy Act, touts using bots to bypass the maximum number of purchasable tickets to exploit real fans will now face unlimited fines.
Speaking to NME, Minister For Digital MP Matt Hancock said that while the reselling of gig tickets would not become completely illegal, a review was ongoing to tackle the issue – including investigating companies that are both primary and secondary sellers of tickets.
“The goal here is to make sure that fans can buy tickets at reasonable prices,” Mr Hancock told NME. “The legislation we announced yesterday is one part of the broader plan. The legislation to ban the bots is one track to come into force in April; it’s got to go through Parliament between now and now but I’m fully confident that they will approve.”
He continued: “This is about tackling computers that buy more than 10 tickets at a time, but we know there’s much more to it than that. The enforcement from police of existing laws has been progressing too so that we can use the powers that we’ve got already. We’ve also got the Competition Authority looking at the market. Lots of people raised the concern that when the primary ticket seller owns the secondary ticket seller – giving them market power. It looks like they’re separate markets, when actually they’re not.”
Asked if the Government would ever consider a ban on tickets being sold above a certain percentage of their original value, Mr Hancock replied: “We don’t rule anything out, but there are advantages to fans being able to sell on tickets that they don’t want. Venues can choose not to allow re-sale above face value, and some do. As we found in the Waterson Review published last year, fans overwhelmingly want the chance to re-sell a ticket if they can’t use them and have a functioning secondary market.
“What we need is a secondary market that is fair – not skewed.”
But would he welcome a cap to stop tickets being re-sold at massively inflated prices?
“Yes, and that’s an option available to primary sellers – but it comes back to the question of market structure. There’s a lot of money in this game and people make a lot of money from the uplift of reselling. That’s why it’s difficult to tackle and why we need to use the law.”
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And what about your average tout stood outside gigs charging extortionate amounts for tickets?
“If we can have a system where people can get tickets at reasonable prices, I think that’s where our effort has to be most concentrated. You’ve got to keep things in proportion. The use of computers for the industrial scale of buying up almost all of the tickets to remove the ability of ordinary fans is a serious problem. We’ve all experienced it. That’s just on a totally scale to people walking the opposite direction to the crowd with a large overcoat on.”
This comes in the wake of an investigation last year when officials raided four premieses (including the offices of StubHub and Viagogo) as part of a probe into alleged breaches of consumer law among secondary ticketing companies. Officials from the Competition and Markets Authority reportedly seized computers and information about the relationships that both firms hold with ticket touts, amid reports of links with sellers who harvest tickets for popular events.
As well as the Government vowing to do more to crack down on those who flout consumer law with ticketing, Google has also announced new global re-sale regulations.
In the wake of many fans being left empty handed and subject to hugely inflated fees at the hands of second sites, the likes of Ed Sheeran and Adele have partnered with services such as Twickets – which only allow the resale of tickets at face value.
Last year, a study found that the majority of the UK believe that secondary ticketing websites were a “rip off”, with music fans paying hugely inflated prices for tickets to in-demand gigs.
The survey, commissioned by anti-touting initiative FanFair Alliance and supported by See Tickets and The Ticket Factory , found that 80% of the British public believe that they’re being extortionately charged by secondary ticketing websites such as ViaGoGo and GetMeIn.
At the most recent estimation, the UK’s ticket resale market was valued at £1bn per year, of which £500m can be attributed to music events.
Adam Webb, the campaigns manager for FanFair Alliance, said: “The debate around online ticket touting raises strong passions, so it’s important that the wider music business, politicians and regulators can get a sense of what the general public think.
“The message from this research appears to be pretty clear: UK audiences are fed up. The model of secondary ticketing promoted by Viagogo, StubHub, Get Me In! and Seatwave is causing them very real concern – albeit, they are not against the concept of ticket resale. The majority would like the option to resell a ticket for the price they paid for it, and they’re in favour of measures to curb mass-scale online ticket touting. On that front, FanFair urges legislators and regulators to accelerate their endeavours to tackle the most egregious practices of the secondary market.”