U.K. Taking 'Enforcement Action' Against Secondary Ticketing Sites

British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) is to take "enforcement action" against secondary ticketing websites it suspects of breaking consumer protection law.

The announcement follows an almost two-year investigation into the sector that the CMA says "identified widespread concerns" about how secondary ticketing sites operate and "gathered evidence" about possible unlawful practice. 

"Our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken," said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli in a statement announcing the escalation in proceedings. 

"We are putting our concerns to these websites and will be requiring the changes necessary to tackle them," Coscelli went on to say, warning vendors that the CMA "will use the full range of our powers to get the right outcome for these sites’ customers, including taking action through the courts if needed."

Launched in June 2016, a key focus of the CMA’s inquiry into the sector was looking into whether the U.K.’s four leading secondary sites -- eBay-owned StubHub, Switzerland-headquartered Viagogo and Ticketmaster-operated platforms GetMeIn! and Seatwave -- were guilty of breaching the law as set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. 

That piece of legislation dictates that secondary vendors must notify buyers of a ticket’s original face value and provide information on its seat number and location inside a concert venue. Other requirements include informing ticket buyers 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.

Concerns that secondary sites were failing to abide by those rules were outlined in an earlier government-led review by Professor Michael Waterson, published in May 2016

Nearly 18 months on, the CMA has found that the law is still being breached by a number of unnamed secondary platforms, but notes that "some sites have already made changes since it opened the investigation."

Although the CMA does not have the power to issue fines, failure to comply with its findings can be passed onto the British courts.

Having unearthed evidence of suspected unlawful practice, the CMA has also now broadened the scope of its original investigation to look into pressure selling in the secondary market and whether claims made about the availability of tickets create a misleading impression or rush customers into buying a ticket.

The controversial practice of speculative selling, where businesses advertise tickets for sale that they do not yet own, is also being looked into as part of the broader investigation being conducted alongside partner agencies the Advertising Standards Authority and National Trading Standards. 

The CMA says that it will listen to the websites’ responses to its concerns. A spokesperson for StubHub tells Billboard that the platform "remains committed to working with U.K. regulators to ensure that consumers continue to have access to a safe, secure and transparent ticket resale service."  

"It is great to see that the CMA is taking this much-needed step to enforce the law in the U.K. resale market," added a spokesperson for Ticketmaster. They went on to say that the ticketing giant and operator of secondary platforms Seatwave and GetMeIn has been "working closely with the CMA to ensure that we are compliant with consumer law, offering unparalleled transparency to fans when purchasing tickets."

Viagogo did not respond to requests to comment when contacted by Billboard.

"Beyond suspected breaches of consumer protection law, we believe the largest ticket resale platforms are riddled with bad practice, including speculative ticket listings, pressure selling and collusion with large-scale ticket touts," said a spokesperson for the FanFair Alliance, welcoming the promise of action from the CMA. 

"It is has taken far too long to get here, but a Sword of Damocles now hangs over the entire secondary market," the spokesperson continued, warning, "If they fail to deliver root-and-branch reforms, we expect the largest resale platforms to face significant consequences."


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.