Google has introduced new rules in order to crackdown on secondary ticketing sites – however some have argued that more needs to be done.
Coming into action this week, Google now requires all websites to make clear that they are second hand tickets sellers in advertising – being forced to carry a disclaimer on their page stating that they aren’t a primary ticket source.
“We felt like we needed to do more to make sure the advertising of secondary ticketing is clear on our platform,” Google spokesperson Jennifer Kaiser told the BBC. “To carry on advertising on Google, secondary sites can’t use words like “official”, they can’t use the artist or venue name in the website URL, and they’ll need to clearly say they are a reseller at the top of their page.”
“We’re not just going to certify resellers and go away. We’ll be making sure they maintain the criteria in order to run advertising. If the government want to push for further rules we would certainly comply with those rules.”
Google spokesman Elijah Lawal added: “When people use our platform to purchase tickets, we need to make sure that they have an experience they can trust.
“We think that ticket resellers who agree to these new requirements will provide a better and safer user experience.”
After the government introduced new legislation to prevent secondary ticketing sites from buying tickets in bulk using automated ‘bots’, many have welcomed the new rules from the internet search giant – however some believe that more needs to be done, calling for tout sites to be lowered in their search ranking.
Among the critics were Ed Sheeran’s promoter Stuart Galbraith, who hit out at the search engine for allowing Viagogo to appear so highly in search results – and being listed as an “official source” of tickets. Research by the Fanfair Alliance shows that 77% of searches for tickets by popular artists show a secondary ticket website that has paid to rank highly on Google searches.
Speaking to You & Yours, Galbraith said: “Google needs to bow to pressure and stop taking money for tickets which are sold on the secondary market.”
UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher argued that it was “misleading” to call Google’s new changes a “clampdown”.
“”There remains a real danger that music fans still risk paying exorbitant prices for tickets from secondary sites when there are tickets still available from official primary sellers,” said Dugher.
“The changes Google has made should be reviewed in three months’ time so we can see if they have been effective. Google has the power to protect ticket buyers by the way details of ticket sellers appear in the search rankings that it controls. They urgently need to review the effectiveness of these changes in advance of our music festival season getting fully underway.”
He added: “In the same way that Google’s YouTube is ripping off artists and investors, Google risks still being complicit in the ripping off of music fans by facilitating a system that continues to prey on consumers.”
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.”
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.