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Government vows to tackle ticketing bots that would ’disarm the worst’ touts

Ban the Bots and Touts Out protest outside Parliament
Ban the Bots and Touts Out protest outside Parliament
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A law banning software used to exploit the secondary ticketing market has moved one step closer to reality, after arts minister Matt Hancock confirmed the government would consider implementing legislation.

Prohibiting the use of bots – which harvest large numbers of tickets when they go on sale only to be resold at an inflated price – is an issue which has been backed by MPs as a way of tackling misuse of the secondary market.

Hancock's comments came as part of a debate over an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill regarding bots, in which he confirmed he would be holding a roundtable meeting with the industry on November 30 to discuss the best way to tackle the problem.

"Although we would not want to close down the secondary market for tickets altogether, clearly the automatic harvesting of tickets sold below market price — so that fans can afford them — for resale at a higher value is wrong. I want to build a bridge over troubled waters, listen to the points made at the roundtable and bring forward legislation in this bill if this is found to be necessary," Hancock said.

It comes amid an ongoing campaign to improve the situation regarding ticket touts and follows a letter from the culture, media and sport select committee to culture secretary Karen Bradley last week, in which she was urged to take stronger action.

As part of the debate on November 28, the committee's chair Damian Collins said it was "incumbent" on parliament to find a solution to the issues raised, "not only because this affects the ticketing market but because it rips off the consumer".

Fellow MP Nigel Adams, who has lobbied strongly for more action to be taken against industrial-scale touts, welcomed Hancock's suggestion that the government was prepared to take action and described his words as "incredibly encouraging".

He added: "The fundamental point is that we have now achieved broad cross-party consensus. Other countries have brought in similar laws to outlaw bots, and now is the time for this house to take action. While this is not the only measure that will tackle ticketing problems, it has cross-party support, as well as support outside the house, including from ticketing companies, which want action and bots to be outlawed."

The House of Commons debate coincided with a protest outside parliament, where MPs and peers joined with members of the music and entertainment industries for a photo call, including producer Sonia Friedman. Friedman has previously led calls on the government to take more action.

Following the event, Adam Webb, from campaign group FanFair Alliance, said: "Criminalising the misuse of bots would disarm some of the worst online ticket touts – but it is important that government does not stop there. We also need proper enforcement of consumer law to disrupt the touts’ overall business practices and bring transparency to the secondary ticketing sites that they operate from.”

Last week, JK Rowling took to Twitter to warn theatregoers considering going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child not to buy from secondary markets.

She said: “Be warned! #CursedChild tickets bought from third-party vendors such as Stubhub and Viagogo will almost certainly be cancelled.”

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