Bid to ban bots reaches House Of Lords

Bid to ban bots reaches House Of Lords

The government's planned crackdown on bots will be debated in the House Of Lords tomorrow as the Digital Economy Bill reaches its report stage. 

Ticket touts will be banned from using “bots” - robotic computer software which gets around security measures to snap up hundreds of tickets as soon as they go on sale. The amendment to the Bill will give the government the power to create a new criminal offence of using bots to bypass limits on maximum ticket purchases set by event organisers.

Assuming it is approved, the details of how this will be achieved will be confirmed in regulations after the Digital Economy Bill becomes law, which is expected by May.

Speaking during last week's ticket abuse hearing in parliament, See Tickets MD Rob Wilmshurst questioned the effect banning bots would have on reducing industrial scale touting, describing the issue as a "red herring".

"I am not a firm believer in this," said Wilmshurst. "We have a number of technologies in place that allow us to spot this type of stuff and we don’t see it. We have added more technology to thwart bots and we don’t see conversion rates dropping between the ratio of custom to people actually transacting."

This week's Lords' meeting was originally due to take place last Wednesday, but was postponed due to the Westminster terrorist attack. 

Two other proposed amendments to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 - tabled by Conservative Peer Lord Colin Moynihan, with backing from a cross party group of Peers - are also set to be debated. If supported, they would require secondary ticketing websites to show - where applicable - the booking reference (or other identifying mark) of the ticket and provide information upfront to potential buyers on whether there is a resale restriction. 

This is in response to claims that some resale sites are deliberately not listing the exact seat number of tickets. Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith said in parliament last week: "The sites are starting to comply with the Consumer Rights Act more; some were getting as close to it as they possibly could.

"The latest trick is that they’ll tell you the block and the row and will tell you a range of seats that you’re going to sit in – but won’t tell you the [actual] seat, which is what they have to tell you by law - because they know that, if I know that, I will cancel the ticket.”

Galbraith also took aim at Google, calling on the internet giant to stop taking adverts from secondary ticketing companies found to be operating "in breach of the law". 

It remains to be seen whether there will be any repercussions for Viagogo after the controversial secondary ticketing site no-showed last week's culture, media and sport select committee hearing on ticket abuse, having been summoned to give evidence. A precedent was set in 2015 when Sports Direct and Newcastle United FC owner Mike Ashley said he was "too busy" to attend a business select committee meeting in 2015, only to change his mind when he was warned he could end up being in contempt of parliament. 

Viagogo was accused of "moral repugnance" for reselling tickets for tonight's Teenage Cancer Trust fundraising concert by Ed Sheeran at the Royal Albert Hall at up to £5,000. Tickets are currently listed as "sold out" on the site.

Claire Turnham, who says Viagogo overcharged her by £1,150 for Sheeran tickets, has set up the Victims of Viagogo group on Facebook to seek refunds for others who feel they have been "ripped off".

It also emerged last week that Viagogo moved out of its London office in Cannon Street in January. Though headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the company's European operations centre is on the outskirts of Limerick, Ireland. 

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