Secondary ticketing safeguards imposed on ticket resellers and event organisers

April 23, 2019

After securing a court order against viagogo in November 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority issued a reminder to viagogo, StubHub and Ticketmaster that, by midnight on 17 January 2019, they were each required to have overhauled their processes to improve information on tickets listed for resale.

The CMA also published an open letter to secondary ticketing websites, reminding them of their obligations under consumer law, stressing the relevance of the court order to any website that facilitates the resale of tickets, even if that is not the primary purpose of the website.  The CMA published a separate open letter to event organisers on how to ensure that information on event tickets is disclosed on secondary ticketing websites, as well as the steps that users of restrictions on resale can take to reduce the risk of enforcement action.

Overhaul

The changes are meant to ensure that any new ticket listed for resale on the viagogo, StubHub and Ticketmaster platforms will include information on:

  • whether there is a risk that the buyer will be turned away at the door;
  • which seat in the venue the buyer will get; and
  • the identity of the seller if it is a business – so that people can benefit from enhanced legal rights when buying from businesses.

In particular, viagogo was also required to make changes to its processes:

  • to prevent customers from being misled by messages about the availability and popularity of tickets;
  • to make it easier for customers to get their money back under its guarantee when things go wrong; and
  • to ensure that certain customers who made claims under viagogo’s guarantee but didn’t get their money back will receive refunds if they were entitled to them.

In its open letter to secondary ticketing websites, the CMA refers to the High Court order against viagogo and stresses its relevance to any website that facilitates the resale of tickets, even if that is not the primary purpose of the website.

Comment

The CMA has since conducted a comprehensive review of the changes that each website has made to its processes to ensure that they have all fully complied with the formal commitments given to the CMA by StubHub and Ticketmaster and the court order imposed on viagogo. The CMA has made it clear that continuing compliance failures will result in their taking further action, including through the courts.

So regulatory action against ticket resellers continues unabated.  The CMA investigation is just part of a broader campaign to combat ticketing abuses.  For example, the Breaching of Limits on Ticket Sales Regulations 2018, which came into force on 5 July 2018, now outlaw the use of bots to override limits on ticket sales, by making it a criminal offence to buy more tickets than the maximum permitted for recreational, sporting or cultural events in the UK, where the purchase is made electronically through the use of software designed for that purpose, and where the intent is to obtain financial gain.

In September 2018 the Advertising Standards Authority announced that it had secured changes to viagogo’s website to stop drip pricing, and Ticketmaster appears to have committed to offering a capped resale service.

Still, doubts remain over viagogo’s level of commitment, in light of which the anti-ticket touting lobbying group FanFair Alliance said that it would “begin a process of collating and submitting further evidence to the CMA”.

More recently, on 5 March 2019, the CMA warned viagogo that it is still not compliant with the court order and has insisted that improved information be displayed about the tickets listed for resale on its site.  Accordingly, although some improvements have been made since the CMA first demanded action to address areas of non-compliance, further checks have demonstrated that there are still issues of concern.  As a result, the CMA plans to take legal action to ask a court to find viagogo in contempt. Time will tell whether that action is a strong enough incentive to other secondary ticketing websites to ensure compliance.

Fiona McAllister, Associate and Alastair Fatemi, Trainee Solicitor, Simkins LLP

To read the full article, click here.  Article written for Entertainment Law Review.