COMPETITION / CONSUMER
Live events sector
Hot on the back of news that Google is updating its rules on how ticket-resellers can advertise on its search engine, meaning secondary ticketing platforms globally will have to be certified with Google before they can advertise using its AdWords platform (in turn promoting greater transparency), comes the announcement that the UK’s Competition And Markets Authority (CMA) will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law following a long-running investigation – through the courts, if necessary.
The CMA said it has gathered evidence, which it considers reveals breaches of the law, and identified “widespread concerns” about the information consumers are given.
The CMA launched an “enforcement investigation” into secondary ticketing in December 2016. The CMA then said that it intended to “consider whether, in its view, both the businesses selling tickets and the secondary ticketing platforms advertising them are failing to provide the full range of information in breach of the law and, if so, take enforcement action”, responding to claims that the major re-sale platforms were ignoring transparency obligations laid out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. These include stating the face value of the tickets being sold, information on the seating area, and any restrictions that apply, for example if re-sold tickets are likely to be cancelled.
The CMA has now said that it is raising concerns with a number of secondary ticketing sites about these failures. Noting past commitments made by the big ticket resale platforms, it added that it will also be “acting to address a failure by one website to comply fully with formal commitments it had previously given to improve the information provided about tickets advertised on its site”.
The CMA will also be widening the scope of the existing investigation in order to address further concerns. These are pressure selling where a ‘countdown’ or opaque claims about an impending sell-out might mislead customers into a rushed decision; speculative selling by offering tickets for sale that the seller does not actually have to sell; problems in claiming refunds; and concerns over primary sellers shifting tickets onto secondary sites without making this clear to consumers.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Secondary ticketing websites can offer an important service – by allowing people the chance to buy tickets at the last minute or giving them a chance to re-sell tickets they can no longer use. But our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken” adding “Thousands of people use these sites and they have a right to know if there is a risk that they will be turned away at the door, who they’ve bought their ticket from or exactly what seat at the venue they’re getting for their money” and “We are putting our concerns to these websites and will be requiring the changes necessary to tackle them. We will use the full range of our powers to get the right outcome for these sites’ customers – including taking action through the courts if needed”.
Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group On Ticket Abuse, Sharon Hodgson MP, welcomed the announcement and said “It is welcome news that the CMA are now considering enforcement action against the resale platforms – who we know have repeatedly flouted the law of the land – especially after the many years of MPs and campaigners saying just that” adding “What is incredibly interesting from this announcement is the fact that the CMA have widened the scope of their investigations from their original terms after they have seen just how broken this market is and the further action needed to fix it” and “This is positive news from an agency who is ultimately instructed to protect consumers from companies disregarding their rights and will be an important step in the right direction to finally put fans first in this market, once and for all”.
The FanFair Alliance also welcomed the news and said “Today’s CMA announcement that they will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing sites justifies everything FanFair Alliance supporters have campaigned for” and “Alongside work from the Advertising Standards Authority and National Trading Standards, we are especially pleased the CMA will expand the scope of their investigation. Beyond suspected breaches of consumer protection law, we believe the largest ticket resale platforms are riddled with bad practice, including speculative ticket listings, pressure selling and collusion with large-scale ticket touts” and “It is has taken far too long to get here, but a Sword Of Damocles now hangs over the entire secondary market. If they fail to deliver root-and-branch reforms, we expect the largest resale platforms to face significant consequences”.
In related news, Eventbrite is the latest primary ticket seller to team up with Twickets to offer the option for punters to resell their tickets at face value.