Competition and Markets Authority: secondary ticket sites may be breaking consumer rights law

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Stormzy - an inclusive artist setting fair ticket prices

Stormzy – an inclusive artist setting fair ticket prices

As secondary ticket sites are threatened with legal action under consumer rights law, Getintothis’ Cath Bore finds the move doesn’t go far enough.

The secondary ticketing market, designed to re-sell tickets to events where the original buyer can no longer attend, suffers a poor reputation.

Worth over £1bn a year, more than half of this money is generated from live music. The market is badly under regulated and, with sections of the music industry complicit, fans are often paying excessive amounts above face value for tickets.

After a year-long investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found secondary ticketing sites may be breaking the law, failing to inform customers about restrictions on tickets when they buy them.

CMA said this week that some have taken action to improve, and threaten to name those who do not amend behaviours and possibly prosecute.  Offending sites face fines of up to £5k under the Consumer Rights Act.

But surely this sum is a drop in the ocean, compared to profits made.

Get Me In, Viagogo, StubHub and Seatwave were all investigated. Each agreed to make changes in March 2015, before the investigation began.

The CMA says consumers should be told if a re-sold ticket has restrictions which could stop them from getting into an event, whether they are buying tickets from a business, and precisely where in the venue they will be sitting.

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The announcement was welcomed by the FanFair Alliance, who campaign against online ticket touts. Six months ago, the Sound City+ Power To The People panel in Liverpool included Adam Webb, Campaign Manager for FanFair Alliance, and Martin Fitzgerald, Chief Commercial Officer at See Tickets.

Back in May they went further than the CMA’s statement, saying that although in many cases management and promoters have improved practices since the Dispatches documentary expose in 2012, the inflated prices charged for tickets by secondary ticket sites is a brazen rip off of fans.

At the event, Martin Fitzgerald said secondary ticketing is ‘not entrepreneurial’ and that the notion ‘makes me sick’.

Viagogo for example, said Fitzgerald, mislead the customer. They ‘put you in a queue say how many inquiries (there are). Language is designed to panic.’

Adam Webb said ‘All secondary platforms have the same business model.’

Fitzgerald added that the wider live music industry’s practice of pre-sales, offering a limited number of early tickets is a gift to the secondary ticket market, and needs to be looked at, as ‘the gap between pre-sales and the beginning of primary sales adds value to touts’ by creating a demand that doesn’t need to be there.

He acknowledged artists who actively try and give fans a fair deal on concerts. He cited Stormzy as an artist setting a reasonable ticket price at £20 for a recent tour. Stormzy ‘clearly could get more (he is an example of) an artist being inclusive’ but ‘if ticket is lower than market value they get sold on for profit’.

The secondary market exploits that knowledge, and is ‘incredibly organised’.

The argument that Stormzy and others attempting to beat these sites and touts don’t understand how the market and capitalism works doesn’t hold water, he reckons, because the money made by these sites doesn’t go back into the industry.

‘Legislation is the only way,’ he said.

The Power To The People panel recommended resale platform Twickets, where fans can sell tickets they can no longer use to other fans at face value or less.

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