US and UK move against ticketing touts

January 2017

Live events sector


In the USA, anti-touting legislation has primarluly been governed by state level legislation – New York recently banned the use of the so called ‘bots ‘– software that enables ticket touts to buy up large quantities of tickets from primary sites – so that using such technology could result in criminal sanctions including imprisonment. But lawmakers in Washington have been increasingly talking about ‘banning the bots’ and this has resulted in the  ‘Better Online Ticket Sales Act’ (The ‘BOTS’ Act) which means that the use of tout bots will be defined as an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, a move which will empower the FTC to pursue cases against people using such technology.
The Act received Congressional approval earlier this month, and now President Obama has approved to the legislation and his office said the new US-wide measure would “prohibit the circumvention of control measures used by internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for certain events”.
Live Nation’s Ticketmaster was quick to welcome the passing of the BOTS Act saying: “On behalf of artists, venues, teams, and especially fans, Ticketmaster is pleased that the BOTS Act is now a federal law. Ticketmaster worked closely with legislators to develop the BOTS Act and we believe its passage is a critical step in raising awareness and regulating the unauthorised use of bots”.
In the UK it is hoped that a similar new law will come into effect via the in-development Digital Economy Act, despite government ministers saying the use of such software may already be illegal under the Computer Misuse Act.
Also in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now launched an investigation into suspected breaches of consumer protection law by a number of secondary ticketing platforms. The new investigation will consider whether the CMA believes both the businesses selling tickets and the secondary ticketing platforms advertising them actually comply with regulations, and providing the full range of information required, including whether information on sellers’ identities and possible connections with event organisers or platform are disclosed; restrictions on the use of resold tickets that could result in denial of access; and where a seat is located in the venue. Additionally, the CMA is working with event organisers to help ensure that any terms used to restrict the resale of their tickets are fair for consumers.
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s acting chief executive, said: “A night out at a concert or a trip to a big match is something that millions of people look forward to. So it’s important they know who they are buying from and whether there are any restrictions that could stop them using the ticket” adding “We have heard concerns about a lack of transparency over who is buying up tickets from the primary market. We also think that it is essential that those consumers who buy tickets from the secondary market are made aware if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door. “We have therefore decided to open a sector-wide investigation to ensure that customers are made aware of important information that they are legally entitled to. If we find breaches of consumer law, we will take enforcement action.”

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