After months of consultation, behind-the-scenes lobbying and a high-profile Mumford & Sons-backed petition calling for tougher sanctions on the secondary ticketing market, Thursday (May 26) saw the long-awaited publication of a British government-led review into the highly lucrative and equally controversial sector.
Professor Michael Waterson’s 227-page report stopped short of calling for a blanket ban on secondary sites like Viagogo, StubHub and Seatwave, and rejected the idea of capping the price of resale tickets, but it did recommend stronger regulation of how vendors — both primary and secondary — sell and market tickets to fans.
Most notably, the review said secondary sites were failing to abide by legislation set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, including the requirement to for sellers to notify buyers of a ticket’s original price value and information on its seat number and location inside the concert venue. In response, Waterson recommended tighter scrutiny of how ticketing services operate, greater transparency throughout the industry and that vendors undertake greater steps to identify and stop take tougher enforcement action.
“Professor Waterson exposes a dysfunctional and under-regulated ticketing market,” responded an open letter signed by the managers of Mumford & Sons, Arctic Monkeys, One Direction, PJ Harvey, Radiohead and numerous others.
Billboard compiles a round-up of responses to the review below.
Richard Davies, founder of fan-to-fan ticket resale platform Twickets
“We’re delighted to see that Professor Waterson’s report addresses our recent Parliamentary Petition — already signed by nearly 42,000 people — calling for greater protection against touts in the U.K. It is now vital that the Government responds to ensure compliance with the Consumer Rights Act and that all relevant legislation is enforced. It must also be prepared to step in once more if self-governance measures fail. Ideally, we would liked to have seen the report go further to protect fans. It acknowledges that profiteering prevents consumers securing a ticket, yet calls for evidence of manipulation before recommending a price-cap. The report further blames event organizers for creating the conditions for the secondary one, but doesn’t consider that they are seeking to make music, arts and sports events affordable. In our view the only way fans can be properly protected is through a blanket ban on resale for profit — as has been implemented in other markets around the world, and was successfully achieved for London 2012.”
“Professor Waterson exposes a dysfunctional and under-regulated ticketing market. His review calls on Government to enforce the law, and for secondary ticketing sites to apply the law and show responsibility. Fans must have clarity and fairness. As revealed by today’s long awaited report from Professor Michael Waterson, U.K. audiences are confused by the ticket-buying process. In the worst instances, they are being ripped off and sold short by industrial-scale online ticket touting. Professor Waterson has clearly recognised these long-term failings, and makes 9 pragmatic recommendations that, if implemented, will help reform the market. We believe that fans should be given every opportunity to buy and exchange tickets at the price they were intended — not see them used as collateral to boost the profits of scalpers.
The music business has a significant role to play in driving change, and we are committed to work with partners to promote pro-consumer practices and technologies. However, we also reiterate Professor Waterson’s call for Government to act and for secondary ticketing services to follow the law. Above all, we need a Consumer Rights Act that is fit for purpose, and to have the law on ticket resales enforced by Trading Standards. U.K. audiences deserve clarity and fairness, not a dysfunctional and under-regulated secondary ticketing market that causes untold harm to our world-beating creative and cultural sector.
“We welcome Professor Waterson’s recognition of the benefits for consumers from the secondary market and his decision to reject further legislation at this stage, including price caps and any general resale bans or bans for ‘crown jewel’ events. We also welcome the suggested action on bots and the other measures which are directed towards the primary market. But we are concerned that there are still insufficient legal safeguards to stop event organisers using row and seat number details to cancel without compensation tickets offered for resale. Transparency should not come at the expense of people’s right to resell their tickets.”
Alex Neill, director of policy and campaigns at U.K. independent consumer rights organization Which?
“Our research found extensive examples of tickets being sold unlawfully so it’s right that secondary ticketing sites have clearly been told they are ?responsible for complying? with the law. The Government and Trading Standards must now ensure they can take strong action to punish any sites found breaking the rules. Fans are rightly frustrated when they see tickets being sold on the secondary market at hugely inflated prices, particularly when they are being sold on an industrial scale. So it’s good to see that the review has acknowledged there is much more the industry needs to do to combat this problem. They must take this opportunity to show they are willing to take action, otherwise people will be looking to the Government to step in.”
Jonathan Brown, chief executive, Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR)
“This is not about whether tickets should or shouldn’t be offered for resale or for how much they are sold. It is about pragmatically working to fill a gap in consumer protection by ensuring that customers are able to feel confident whenever they buy tickets and by improving standards even further in the legal ticket resale sector. We have to do all we can to be clear about the advice we give to customers to help them avoid illegal scam websites. We need to stop them from giving money to fraudsters who prey on fans desperate to obtain tickets for sold-out events without any intention of delivering.”
Sharon Hodgson, Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse
“For too long, fans have lacked consumer protections which would reduce the underhand actions of profiteering and fraudulence in the secondary market which sees fans ripped off, that is why it is welcome that Professor Waterson has called for the enforcement of the Consumer Rights Act — which we know has been continuously flouted since it was enacted last year — and for the onus to be on the secondary sites to ensure sellers comply with the transparency measures, instead of washing their hands of this responsibility.”
Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Intellectual Property
“I would like to thank Professor Waterson for completing this review. His work has provided significant insights into the ticketing market. This is a topic that attracts great interest and a wide range of views, so an independent voice is very welcome. The government will respond to this report in due course.”
Dave Newton, CEO, WeGotTickets
“One big step forward would be to standardise, or at least open up, the format of a ‘ticket’ so that redemption/entry systems could be installed across all venues in the U.K. that are not dependent on the primary ticket seller. WeGotTickets would have liked to see this recommendation in the report but are still hopeful that this is something that could come as a result of the recommendation that “the Government assists the primary ticket industry as a whole to form a project group to examine and standardise.”