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The online resale of tickets (the secondary ticketing market) applies to recreational, sporting or cultural events in the UK. Secondary ticketing, especially pricing, is a subject that attracts much public interest. Recently, there have been various investigations of this sector resulting in some enforcement activity.

Following the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015), the Government commissioned an independent report by Professor Michael Waterson to explore the effectiveness of consumer protection measures concerning online secondary ticketing facilities. Published in May 2016, Professor Waterson’s report made nine recommendations to make the ticketing market work better for consumers. In response, Karen Bradley, then Secretary of State (DCMS), hosted roundtable meetings with enforcement bodies and stakeholders in November 2016. The Government’s written response to the report was published on 13 March 2017. As well as accepting the report’s recommendations in full, the Government said that it would respond with proposals which Parliament would be invited to consider within the context of the Digital Economy Bill.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017. In respect of secondary ticketing, new provisions introduced by the Act:

  • criminalise the use of bots to purchase tickets in excess of a maximum number and puts the ICO’s direct marketing code on a statutory footing; and
  • require re-sellers to provide “any unique ticket number that may help the buyer to identify the seat or standing area or its location.”

The Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee have also held two one-off evidence sessions into ticket abuse. The first session took place on 15 November 2016 and considered the problem of software being used to harvest tickets from primary sellers. The CMS Committee held a further one-off evidence session on 21 March 2017.

Recently, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, acted against four secondary ticketing websites in respect of misleading presentation of pricing information. In June 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began a compliance review of the secondary ticketing market, resulting in an announcement on 19 December 2016 that it would conduct a formal investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law.

In November 2017, the CMA began enforcement action against four secondary ticketing websites. Three of those sites made a formal commitment in April 2018 to overhaul the way they do business. In respect of the fourth site, Viagogo, the CMA issued proceedings on 31 August 2018 over concerns it was breaking consumer protection law. A court order was made on 27 November 2018 requiring Viagogo to overhaul the way it conducts business by mid- January 2019. On 5 September 2019, the CMA announced it had suspended its court action because Viagogo had addressed outstanding concerns about how it presents information to its customers.

This Commons briefing paper outlines the current regulation of the secondary ticketing market. It also considers recent initiatives to tighten regulation of this sector.


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