Ticket touts to now face ‘unlimited fines’ for using bots – but is it enough?

How do they still keep gathering tickets before fans?

From today (Thursday July 5), ticket touts and secondary ticketing sites will now face ‘unlimited fines’ if they’re caught using bots.

The legislation was first announced back in January – meaning it is now a criminal offence to use automated technology to purchase large amounts of tickets in bulk to then be sold on at inflated prices.

Now, it comes into action.


“Too often [fans] have been priced out of the market due to unscrupulous touts buying up huge batches of tickets and selling them on at ridiculous prices,” Digital and creative industries minister Margot James told The Guardian. “From today I am pleased to say that we have successfully banned the bots.”

Secondary ticket sellers must let buyers know of any potential restrictions

Minister For Digital MP Matt Hancock previously told NME:“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.”

Security and ticketing expert Reg Walker also noted the lack of clarity of the difference between secondary sites to primary ticket sellers, noting the close relationship that many of them share. He agreed that there is much more to tackle beyond the bots.

“Bots are just one tool in the touts’ box,” he told The Guardian. “There are changes in technology that mean there may be loopholes in the legislation that they can exploit.”


New legislation has been introduced to crack down on ticket touts
New legislation has been introduced to crack down on ticket touts

Back in February, Google introduced new rules in order to crackdown on secondary ticketing sites – requiring all websites to make clear that they are second hand tickets sellers in advertising.

They are now forced to carry a disclaimer on their page stating that they aren’t a primary ticket source. However, many argued that touts should be banned from advertising altogether.

Ed Sheeran cardiff toilet break
The singer halted the show not once but twice

Recently, Ed Sheeran took the bold step of cancelling fans’ tickets to his shows that were purchased from secondary sites. Fans with secondary tickets were then asked to pay £80 on the door – the original face value of the ticket. In total, over 10,000 tickets have been cancelled across the 18-date tour.

Meanwhile, The Competition and Markets Authority and National Trading Standards are both carrying out separate investigations into touts and secondary ticketing platforms.

Asked if the Government would ever consider a ban on tickets being sold above a certain percentage of their original value, Mr Hancock told: “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.”