U.K. Government Launches Yet Another Investigation Into Secondary Ticketing

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Already subject to numerous reviews, inquiries, petitions and torrents of vitriol from artists, managers and consumers throughout 2016, the secondary ticket market will bid farewell to the year much as it greeted it -- under investigation.

British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) has today (Dec. 19) launched an ‘enforcement investigation’ into suspected breaches of U.K. consumer law by secondary ticket vendors.  

The CMA inquiry will specifically focus on whether the U.K.’s four leading secondary sites, Viagogo, GetMeIn!, StubHub and Seatwave, are failing to abide by legislation set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which includes the requirement to notify buyers of a ticket’s original price value and information on its seat number and location inside the concert venue. The CMA will also look into vendor’s failure to notify consumers of any connections that sellers may have with the platform or event organizers, as well as any restrictions on resold tickets that could result in the buyer being refused entry to a concert or live event.

“We have heard concerns about a lack of transparency over who is buying up tickets from the primary market,” said Andrea Coscelli, CMA acting chief executive, announcing the “sector-wide” investigation.  

“We also think that it is essential that those consumers who buy tickets from the secondary market are made aware if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door,” Coscelli went on to say, adding that “enforcement action” will be taken against anyone found to be breaching consumer law.

CMA’s actions follow a number of previous inquiries into the controversial and hugely profitable secondary ticketing market in the United Kingdom.

In May, a government-led review chaired by Professor Michael Waterson found that vendors were regularly failing to provide adequate information on tickets and that platforms such as Viagogo and Seatwave should "take more responsibility and undertake greater checks to identify traders."

That was followed less than a month later by CMA’s own initial review of the U.K.’s biggest secondary vendors, which determined that at least one of the four was failing to provide adequate information to buyers. It also revealed wider concerns across the sector concerning transparency and breaches of consumer protection, prompting today’s review.

It comes at a time when British secondary ticketing vendors already find themselves under scrutiny from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which last month held a one-off evidence session into the ticketing business and announced that it was to table a regulatory measure that – like the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, or BOTS Act – banned the use of computer programs to buy up large numbers of tickets for later resale.

The committee also called for "a fuller investigation of the whole area of ticketing" after unearthing what it termed "far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market."

“Ticketing transparency regulations under the Consumer Rights Act are being repeatedly ignored, so we welcome the CMA’s investigation into suspected breaches and promise of enforcement thereafter,” said Richard Davies, founder of fan-to-fan resale platform Twickets, in light of today's announcement.   

The FanFair Alliance, a consortium of managers, trade bodies, agents and promoters in the U.K., including representatives of Mumford & Sons, One Direction and Arctic Monkeys, also welcomed the news, saying, “gig goers need transparency.”

“They should know when the terms and conditions on their tickets prevent resale, and we welcome proper enforcement of the existing law so that real fans have a fair chance to buy tickets and stop them being scooped up by touts,” a spokesperson for FanFair Alliance said.

They did, however, express disappointment that “measures to genuinely fix ticket resale are not being taken sooner,” drawing a comparison with the “swift and decisive” action that has been taken in countries like Italy to criminalize scalping.

“It is imperative that UK fans can benefit from similar protections. And fast,” reads a statement on the FanFair website.