Media law update: government rejects tougher ticketing laws

In May 2023, the government published its response to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA“) calls for further constraints on secondary ticketing sales. Whilst the overarching objective is to protect consumers from having to pay unfair premiums on tickets, it looks like the laws that govern ticketing sales will remain the same, for now…

At present, the government does not deem it necessary or justified to introduce further legislation in the secondary ticketing market. Instead, it has hinted to the enhanced enforcement powers that the CMA and other entities will receive under the recently introduced Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (“DMCC”) Bill. Whilst the DMCC Bill is presently still being debated within Parliament, the government has remarked that these powers should strengthen the enforcement of existing laws in the secondary ticketing market and therefore it does not presently feel that further laws are needed in this area.

The key rules relating to secondary ticketing can be found in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and in Chapter 5, Part 3 of the Consumer Rights Act (“CRA”) – the latter being applicable to both secondary ticketing facilities/platforms (to include the likes of eBay, StubHub, Ticketmaster and Viagogo) and to secondary ticket sellers selling tickets from secondary ticketing platforms/facilities (including individuals not acting in the course of business). Over the years, there have been concerns raised about the growing use of online secondary ticketing facilities, including:-

  • Bulk-buying – where resellers bulk buy tickets as soon as they are released at their listed price by way of sophisticated software referred to as “bots” or “botnets”, which then ultimately exhaust available tickets forcing consumers to pay higher than the face value of the ticket price due to this artificial influx of demand.
  • No pass through of “profit” – meaning the profit made from the higher priced tickets sold by secondary sellers does not reach the organising bodies or artists.
  • Subsequent contracting attempts by the primary ticket market – to manage the impact of bulk buying, certain event organisers implement ticket sale terms that aim to restrict ticket resale or transfer. As a result, whilst there are some controls in the CRA in this area, there is a risk that a purchaser who obtains a ticket from a secondary vendor, in violation of the original sales conditions, may pay an inflated cost for a ticket that may turn out to be void.

The CMA is eager to implement further proposals for the secondary ticketing industry such as banning resellers from selling more tickets than they legally purchased on the primary market, making platforms responsible for accurate ticket information and establishing an enforcement agency with the power to license sellers on secondary ticketing platforms. However, the government is concerned that these measures may impose greater obligations on secondary ticketing sites and sellers than on other platforms and goods. In light of its commitment to proportionate regulation and the hardships the events industry faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government does not wish to burden this sector further.

The DMCC Bill will introduce additional enforcement powers, but the government believes that current laws are adequate to safeguard consumers in the secondary ticketing market. The Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2018/735 already prohibits the use of software to purchase tickets in bulk with the intention of violating sales limits for financial gain. However, the government is interested in seeing proof that such regulations are being enforced and whether they are effective in preventing harm to consumers.

The government agrees with the CMA that an outright ban on the uncapped secondary ticketing market (where tickets are resold at any price that the seller chooses) should not be introduced. It will be interesting to see what affect the DMCC Bill has in offering further restriction powers or whether the CMA will raise further enquiries in the future.

If you would like to find out more information concerning consumer protections within media law, please contact our commercial team.

Olivia Larkin
Solicitor, Commercial
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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