Culture Committee calls for a ban on ticketing ‘bots’

December 2016

Live events sector



The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has written to the UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, media & Sport Culture, Karen Bradley MP, asking her to ban the use of ‘bots’ – software programmes used by touts to harvest tickets for resale in the secondary market. The letter also raises concerns about the operation of the event ticketing market following last week’s evidence session on ticket abuse for the Committee, citing “inappropriately close relationships” between those selling tickets on the primary market and the resellers on the secondary market which was recently exposed in Italy, where the boss of Live Nation had to admit that the promoter did directly provide tickets to the resale website Viagogo.
Committee chairman Damian Collins MPsaid “The answers we got from witnesses representing the ticket sellers and resellers went from complacent to evasive” adding “Their failure to provide the most basic assurances about what they’re doing to tackle known large scale touts and fraudsters operating on their own sites – we had an example on screen in front of a Member in the session – have led us to believe there may be much bigger problems in this market than we originally thought.” Witesses included Paul Peak, who is head of legal, Europe StubHub, and Ticketmaster UK chairman Chris Edmonds
The Committee is tabling an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill to ban the use of ‘bots’ which take tickets out of the Market before real fans can buy them, and said that the Competition And Markets Authority will report on whether ticket companies are complying with consumer law, and has called for an HMRC investigation, as Collins said the submissions to the evidence session indicated there was a significant level of under-reporting of income by known touts trading on secondary sites. Digital culture minister Matt Hancock MP had previously said that in his view the use of bots is prohibited by the Computer Misuse Act 1990, but Collins concludes that Act “does not seem to allow sufficient provision or clarity in this area, and as such there is a strong case for new legislation here to prevent individuals manipulating online ticketing systems”.
Nigel Adams MP, a Conservative, has tabled an amendment Bill that would address part of the problem by criminalising the use of “bots” to buy tickets for resale. The offence, based on legislation introduced in New York, would carry a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks, a fine of up to £5,000, or both


The much-anticipated independent review of the UK’s secondary ticketing market, commissioned by the British government in October 2015, divided the live sector with its call for greater enforcement of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 but no recommendation for any new legislation. Some provisions of the Act remain largely ignored, despite the Government introducing amendments to create greater transparency around secondary sales in 2015. The Act stipulates that consumers must be made aware of the original face value of tickets for secondary sale, any restrictions on the ticket and, where appropriate, standing or seating information. However, consumer group Which? had previously uncovered numerous examples where consumers were not provided with this information on al four of the main secondary ticketing sites, Viagogo, StubHub, Seatwave and Get Me In!


The CMS Committee says an investigation is needed into “far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market”, including alleged collusion between primary ticketers and touts.

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