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Investigation reveals secondary ticket sites are flouting UK law

Photo: Gary Glaser/Shutterstock
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Secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking the law will face enforcement action, including court action, the Competition and Markets Authority announced today.

The announcement follows an investigation by the CMA, originally launched in June 2016, which has identified “widespread concerns” about the information customers are given when buying tickets through secondary sellers.

The investigation has also gathered evidence which, according to the CMA, reveals that several resellers have broken the law.

Some sites have already made changes since the investigation began, and the CMA will ask others to take action so they comply with the law.

One website in particular is being targeted in order to “comply fully with formal commitments it had previously given” to improve information provided to customers, however the CMA did not say which site.

At the moment, secondary ticketing sites are required to tell customers whether there are restrictions on using a resold ticket, such as the need for photo identification. They must also make clear exactly where the customer will be seated in the venue and who the customer is buying the ticket from, whether an individual or a business.

Due to the large amount of evidence gathered, the CMA has now broadened the scope of its investigation. It will now look at ‘pressure selling’, where companies “create a misleading impression” about the availability or popularity of tickets, or rush customers into making a buying decision. It will also investigate the difficulty customers have in getting refunds, and the practice of ‘speculative selling’, where businesses advertise tickets that they do not yet own.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “Our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken.

“Thousands of people use these sites and they have a right to know if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door, who they’ve bought their ticket from or exactly what seat at the venue they’re getting for their money.

“We are putting our concerns to these websites and will be requiring the changes necessary to tackle them. We will use the full range of our powers to get the right outcome for these sites’ customers – including taking action through the courts if needed.”

MP Sharon Hodgson, who co-chairs the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, welcomed the news, saying: “What is incredibly interesting from this announcement is the fact that the CMA has widened the scope of its investigations from their original terms after it has seen just how broken this market is and the further action needed to fix it.

“This is positive news from an agency that is ultimately instructed to protect consumers from companies disregarding their rights.”

Campaign group FanFair Alliance, which lobbies for consumer legislation and against profiteering in the secondary market, and has submitted evidence to the CMA’s investigation, praised the announcement but criticised the investigation for taking “far too long”.

“We are especially pleased the CMA will expand the scope of their investigation,” it said. “Beyond suspected breaches of consumer protection law, we believe the largest ticket resale platforms are riddled with bad practice, including speculative ticket listings, pressure selling and collusion with large-scale ticket touts.

“It is has taken far too long to get here, but a Sword of Damocles now hangs over the entire secondary market. If they fail to deliver root-and-branch reforms, we expect the largest resale platforms to face significant consequences.”

Earlier this year, secondary site Viagogo was criticised when it listed tickets for upcoming musical Hamilton for £6,000 despite the fact that the show’s paperless ticketing system requires audiences to bring photo identification and the payment card used to book when they attend the show.

Viagogo also refused to attend a session of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on misuse of the secondary ticketing market.

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