Out of the Shadows: Fair Ticketing Alliance Launched In Support of Secondary Ticketing Operators

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Eric Church performs on day 3 of C2C - Country 2 Country festival at The O2 Arena on March 13, 2016 in London. 

"For too long, the secondary ticketing industry has been suffering from a poor reputation, afraid to defend itself. We aim to change that," says chairman Stephen Lee.

They're regularly painted as the shadowy scourge of the live industry, profiting at the expense of fans and artists, but now a bunch of secondary ticketing sellers in the United Kingdom are fighting back with the launch of their own campaign group.

Called the Fair Ticketing Alliance, the organization has been set up by what it calls "a group of responsible U.K. ticket brokers" to push for "a fair, trustworthy and flexible ticket market that works for all live entertainment fans."

"For too long, the secondary ticketing industry has been in the shadows, suffering from a poor reputation, afraid to defend itself. We aim to change that," said Fair Ticketing Association chairman Stephen Lee, one of four main brokers behind the alliance. Others include U.K.-based ticket vendors Ian Cole and Alistair Cunningham, as well as U.S.-based Scot Tobias, who operates a British office trading tickets on secondary platforms.

Lee said that legal uncertainty around the secondary market was threatening the future of secondary brokers -- many of which are "often family-run businesses" -- and that "responsible commercial operators should be free to re-sell tickets, like consumers, without unfair restrictions." 

In return, Lee stated, "operators should be properly licensed and comply with the highest standards of ethics."

The newly-launched campaign aims to lobby for changes in U.K. law to give secondary operators the right to re-sell tickets, as well as greater legal clarity around existing laws pertaining to the secondary sector. It says it will also be engaging with politicians and policy makers to ensure that "secondary website platforms allow brokers to comply fully with the law."

"This would produce a well-regulated, free-market environment similar to that in the United States which is favourably regarded," reads a policy statement on the Fair Ticketing Alliance website.

Billboard understands that the group has submitted evidence to the current Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into live music. 

The launch of the Fair Ticketing Alliance comes at a time when the secondary sector is under growing scrutiny in the U.K. with numerous government and regulatory reviews underway into bad practice in the market. 

Last month, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the U.K.'s four leading secondary sites -- eBay-owned StubHub, Switzerland-headquartered Viagogo and Ticketmaster-operated platforms GetMeIn! and Seatwave -- from using misleading pricing to sell tickets.

ASA said it reached its decision after a formal investigation revealed "advertisers were not upfront and clear with consumers about additional ticket fees and charges" added at the end of the booking process.

British government agency the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) is also conducting an ongoing review of the sector with officials raiding the London offices of StubHub and Viagogo in 2017 as part of its investigation into suspected breaches of U.K. consumer law.

A separate investigation is being carried out by National Trading Standards, who carried out their own raids in December, arresting four people and seizing computer equipment, mobile phones and storage devices.

 

Almost two years ago, Professor Michael Waterson published a government-led review of the U.K.'s secondary market that called for tighter scrutiny of services like Viagogo and Seatwave, but rejected calls for a blanket ban on secondary sites.

A long-mooted ban on the use of bots to harvest tickets in the U.K. was unveiled by the British government earlier this year and has been referred to the European Commission ahead of being enshrined in law.