SECONDARY TICKETING websites which break consumer protection laws are to face enforcement action, including being taken to court, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced.
Following an investigation, which began last December, into whether resale sites, including the Big Four – eBay-owned Stubhub, Ticketmaster’s Get Me In and Seatwave and Viagogo – were adhering to the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) amendment of 2015, the CMA has uncovered evidence of breaches of the legislation.
“Our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken,” says CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.
“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.
“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.”
One website, which the CMA declines to name, is already facing enforcement after failing to fully comply with its legal commitments.
To ensure customers are better informed about the tickets they are buying, the CMA is ordering sites to make it clear if there are any restrictions on a resold ticket, identify the seller and state the seat number.
It has also widened its initial investigation, as a result of information obtained, to include pressure selling, speculative selling – when tickets are advertised by sellers who don’t yet possess them, difficulties for fans getting refunded under a website’s guarantee, and event organisers selling directly through secondary sites.
Further information in these areas is to be gathered, before the CMA decides if it needs to take additional enforcement action.
Campaign manager for anti-touting group FanFair Alliance Adam Webb says the fresh line of investigation is an important development and it is time for resale companies to “shape up or ship out”.
“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,” he says.
“If they fail to deliver root-and-branch reforms, we expect the largest resale platforms to face significant consequences.”
Founder of ethical resale platform Twickets Richard Davies adds, “It is particularly encouraging to see that the CMA have broadened their investigation to span additional issues, which have plagued consumers for far too long.”
The CMA will also continue to work closely with the Advertising Standards Authority, which is examining whether resale sites have broken advertising rules, and National Trading Standards, which is focusing on large scale resellers and how they acquire tickets.
“Our investigation has identified concerns that the law protecting consumers is being broken”
Event organisers are also being advised on how to avoid using unfair restrictions on the resale of tickets.
“The CMA has seen just how broken this market is and the further action needed to fix it,” says co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse Sharon Hodgson.
“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.”
MD of consumer watchdog Which? Alex Neill adds, “Our research has found many websites breaking consumer law by not listing the face value of, or restrictions on, tickets as well as key information, such as block, row and seat numbers.”
Sites breaching the Consumer Rights Act can face fines of up to £5,000. Although the CMA cannot apply its own fines, it can enforce legislation through the courts and has powers to drive compliance with the law.
“We have been working closely with the CMA to ensure that we are compliant with consumer law, offering unparalleled transparency to fans when purchasing tickets,” says a spokeswoman for Ticketmaster, while a StubHub spokesperson says the company, “remains committed to working with UK regulators to ensure that consumers continue to have access to a safe, secure and transparent ticket resale service.”
Immediate action will be taken against those not complying with consumer law, a CMA spokeswoman tells LIVE UK, although no deadline has been set for those not currently complying with the law.