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Secondary theatre sellers should not be punished, says report

Secondhand theatre tickets were more commonly purchased than those for comedy, festivals, football or other sports. Photo: Gary Glaser Secondhand theatre tickets were more commonly purchased than those for comedy, festivals, football or other sports. Photo: Gary Glaser
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Secondary theatre ticket sellers should not be banned or have their prices capped, according to a new report published by the government.

A ban, the report states, could “drive [the market] underground or offshore”.

Primary sellers such as Ticketmaster and Ambassador Theatre Group should impose more stringent identity checks on customers as a way to crack down on ticket touting, the report states.

Theatre tickets were found to be the second most popular type purchased on secondary sale websites, with music being the most popular.

Secondhand theatre tickets were more commonly purchased than those for comedy, festivals, football or other sports.

In addition, the independent report says primary ticket sellers should find a way to better inform customers when tickets for shows are going to go on sale.

The report also calls on secondary ticketing sites to enforce the new rules laid out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – meaning that a ticket’s face value, exact seat location and restrictions, such as age, should be listed.

University of Warwick economics professor Michael Waterson, who wrote the report, said National Trading Standards or a similar body should investigate whether the law is being followed.

This comes a day after consumer watchdog Which? found that four major secondary sites including Seatwave and StubHub were consistently breaching these rules.

Elsewhere, Waterson recommends secondary sites should allow for the identification of sellers, and make sure ticket buyers know from whom they are buying.

He also calls for primary ticket sellers to improve the defence of their online ticketing systems against ‘bots’ – computer programs which buy up tickets en masse for touts to resell at an inflated price.

However, the report rejects a ban on the reselling of tickets. It highlights that around 30% of resold tickets are priced below face value, providing “a useful service” to customers.

It also rejects a cap of a 10% mark-up, claiming that touts, secondary sites and consumers would “find their way around them.”

Waters explained: “Clever people will always find new ways to do things online and the live entertainment secondary ticketing market, as well as the primary market, needs to be alive to innovation and its consequences for the market.”

Responding to the report, Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers chief executive Jonathan Brown said the UK’s live entertainment sector was “the envy of the world”.

He continued: “STAR welcomes and supports these efforts to safeguard the future of this hugely important industry.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it would respond to the report “in due course”.

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