The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has called for the introduction of stronger laws to combat illegal ticket resale.
The watchdog has proposed that sales of tickets on platforms such as Viagogo and StubHub should be subject to tighter rules.
The CMA's recommendations include a ban on platforms allowing resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market; ensuring platforms are fully responsible for incorrect information about tickets listed for sale on their websites and a new system of licensing for platforms that sell secondary tickets. The latter point would enable an authority to issue sanctions, hand out substantial fines and withdraw a business’s right to operate in the sector. The full report is available to read here.
We want the government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms
George Lusty, CMA
George Lusty, senior director for consumer protection at the CMA, said: “Over recent years we have taken strong action to protect people buying tickets from resellers online, and the secondary ticket websites are now worlds apart from those we saw before the CMA took action.
“While it is clear that concerns about the sector remain, there are limits to what the CMA and other enforcers can do with their current powers. With live music and sporting events starting back up we want the government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms.
“If adopted, these proposals will help prevent people getting ripped off by unscrupulous resellers online and we stand ready to help the government to implement them.”
Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance, said: "With the steady return of live music events, this is a welcome and timely report from the Competition & Markets Authority. These proposed changes to regulating the so-called 'secondary ticketing' market could have far-reaching future benefits for music fans. We now need to fully digest the implications and viability of introducing their suggested measures."
A spokesperson for StubHub said: "As the CMA report indicates, consumers benefit from regulated secondary ticket platforms, like StubHub. We have a long history of collaborating with regulators in the interests of our fans and will continue to support measures that promote a secure, transparent, and competitive ticket marketplace. We believe that the tools are in place today, through existing law, to protect consumers and address the potential issues highlighted by the CMA."
"We encourage any ongoing regulatory discussions to be comprehensive and include a review of practices by primary ticket sellers that disadvantage fans such as restrictions on transferability or the way tickets are allocated for sale."
A Viagogo spokesperson said: “The CMA’s report into secondary ticketing offers an interesting insight into the effectiveness of current regulation. We welcome the exposure this gives to the strength of Viagogo’s customer protections and the recognition of the importance regulated platforms play in ensuring customer confidence when accessing live events.
"The CMA notes their report is not as a result of customer complaints and moreover, that a ban on secondary platforms would lead to an explosion in black market sources for tickets. We have argued strongly that the UK should grasp the opportunity of the Covid-19 recovery to improve the events industry and strengthen market collaboration between all players including event organisers, venues, primary and resale platforms. We are open to all ideas as to how that is achieved, but it must be carefully considered and focused on improving the industry’s service for customers. There is a need to address the failings of the primary market and we need to explore the risks of new and unregulated online resale channels.”
Earlier this year, the CMA found that the proposed merger between Viagogo and StubHub would lead to a substantial reduction in competition in the secondary ticketing market in the UK. To address this concern, the CMA is requiring Viagogo to sell StubHub’s business outside of North America.