The U.K. government has called on the ticketing and events industry to reduce the number of tickets that end up in the hands of touts. Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe launched a consultation to find solutions on how to improve the ticketing market and urged the industry to improve the service on offer to fans.
The government wants to see more use of methods that have successfully prevented touts from buying up tickets for high profile events.
Anti-tout measures include individual names printed on tickets, requiring ID to gain access to venues or the replacement of paper tickets altogether. Glastonbury festival has deterred secondary ticketing with a photo ID system, while Reading and Leeds Festivals promoter Festival Republic's Web site directs fans to authorised agencies. Tickets to Tom Waits' Scottish and Irish dates last summer featured the name of the concert-goer, who also had to present ID.
"Real efforts are being made by some event organisers to thwart the touts and ensure that as many tickets as possible go straight to real fans," said Sutcliffe in a statement. "But most of the time tickets go to whoever is quickest online on the day they go on sale - and too much of the time that is touts who simply want to resell at a profit. The industry now needs to quickly build on these successful new approaches and ensure they become much more widespread."
The government is not proposing specific curbs on the secondary ticketing industry, but Sutcliffe warned that some form of legislation could not be ruled out if consumers continue to get a raw deal.
"An honest and transparent resale market can be beneficial; it provides fans with an opportunity to buy tickets for sold-out events or sell tickets they can no longer use," he said.
"There is no great appetite for further legislation in the ticketing market, whether from fans, event organisers or the ticket sellers themselves. But we need to see some rapid improvements: more exchange arrangements for football fans and a new deal for everyone looking to buy tickets and frustrated by the actions of ticket touts. We cannot rule out the possibility of legislation if consumers continue to be disappointed by the ticketing market."
Last April, the government agreed with a report by a committee of MPs and ruled out legislation in favor of the industry develoing a voluntary code, but it appears that minister are concerned that not enough has been done to protect consumers.
Joe Cohen, CEO of secondary ticket service Seatwave.com, said in a statement: "Three times in the past three years the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] and CMS Select Committee have looked into the resale of tickets, and three times concluded that the secondary markets are to the benefit of fans.
"A fourth review now would suggest vested interests are steering government policy until they get the result they seek - a complete lockdown to eliminate competition and raise ticket prices for fans."
The government is also publishing new advice from consumer body Consumer Direct on how to safely shop for tickets online. It follows complaints about bookings made online with certain agencies. In November 2008, Serious Fraud Office investigators made arrests in London following an investigation into complaints about the failure by Xclusive Tickets Ltd and Xclusive Leisure & Hospitality Limited to supply at least 4,000 tickets for events such as the Beijing Olympics and music festivals in the U.K.
As part of the consultation, the government is also seeking views on whether STAR (the Society for Ticket Agents and Retailers) could act as a 'beacon of good practice,' with its logo used to ensure customers were buying from reputable sellers. It is also consulting on whether STAR members could cooperate to ensure that the sale of tickets for so-called 'crown jewel' events, considered to be of national significance, would be rigorously monitored to reduce the amount heading to the secondary market at inflated prices.
The consultation runs until May 15. Ticket touting is a joint issue between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).